“Most of our communication technologies began as diminished substitutes for an impossible activity. We couldn’t always see one another face to face, so the telephone made it possible to keep in touch at a distance. One is not always home, so the answering machine made a kind of interaction possible without the person being near his phone. Online communication originated as a substitute for telephonic communication, which was considered, for whatever reasons, too burdensome or inconvenient. And then texting, which facilitated yet faster, and more mobile, messaging. These inventions were not created to be improvements upon face-to-face communication, but a declension of acceptable, if diminished, substitutes for it. But then a funny thing happened: we began to prefer the diminished substitutes.”
The essay ‘How not to be alone’ feels more like a poem to the awe inspiring nature of high quality interpersonal attention than an essay. It bears reading once, and then reading again. As we read, we may find ourselves reflecting on how we ourselves allow diminished substitutes to take over from the hard work relating, at times. Something that reminds us that ‘being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life.’ seems worth taking time over, no?
This Daily Stillness has been recycled from previously published ones:
• #tds476 Communication technologies as diminished substitutes (Oct 18, 2016)