“But then a funny thing happened: we began to prefer the diminished substitutes. It’s easier to make a phone call than to schlep to see someone in person. Leaving a message on someone’s machine is easier than having a phone conversation — you can say what you need to say without a response; hard news is easier to leave; it’s easier to check in without becoming entangled. So we began calling when we knew no one would pick up. Shooting off an e-mail is easier, still, because one can hide behind the absence of vocal inflection, and of course there’s no chance of accidentally catching someone. And texting is even easier, as the expectation for articulateness is further reduced, and another shell is offered to hide in. Each step “forward” has made it easier, just a little, to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.”
I don’t usually like Foer’s writing, but it makes me think of a time I was flying from Detroit two years ago. There was a young girl next to me, about 15, who began crying when the plan was taxiing for takeoff. She was nervous, she’d never flown before.
I didn’t know what I could do — so I asked if she’d like to hold my hand, if that would make her feel better. She gripped tightly and I told her it’s okay to be scared, but it would be okay.
She was calm the rest of the flight. When we landed she simply said “Thank you”. I don’t know that we ever told one another our names.
I wonder, had I been able to take my phone out, had I not been locked into my seat, would I have followed an escapism? Feigning to check my e-mail or a non-existant text-message. Little moments can matter a lot. Sometimes they are the things you think about two years from now, not the e-mail you could have read.
“But the records of our private lives—whom we called when, where we got lost or fell in love, and what we wrote in late-night e-mails—are secrets, too; of a different scale, not a different species. The prosecutors and politicians who asked how this man had access to one kind of secret should also ask about the other. What are government’s proper privileges? How we respond to the vast assembly of information on Edward Snowden’s computer, or Bradley Manning’s for that matter, is a test. Do we think that the answer is to collect and collect, classify and classify, and then hunt wildly and angrily when a guy in his twenties walks away with more than he should? Or are we ready to talk about our secrets?”
“Or you can get out the verybeginning of the Yellow Pages or InterNet Psych-Svce File and make a blubbering 0200h. phone call and admit to a gentle grandparentish voice that you’re in trouble, deadly serious trouble, and the voice will try to soothe you into hanging on until a couple hours go by and two pleasantly earnest, weirdly calm guys in conservative attire appear smiling at your door sometime before dawn and speak quietly to you for hours and leave you not remembering anything from what they said except the sense that they used to be eerily like you, just where you are, utterly fucked, and but now somehow aren’t anymore, fucked like you, at least they didn’t seem like tehy were.”