“Do you have to be enlightened just to get by these days?”
I ended my Sunday column two weeks ago on popular blogger David Roberts’ year off-mic with that question — his — because it echoed in my head long after our interview. It’s still in there now.
Roberts — who’s most of the way through an introspective year off work email, Facebook, Twitter, the works — is now part of a larger conversation about disconnection. What does it accomplish? And why do more and more of us think we need it?
The questions are taking us in different directions.
There’s the envy we tend to express in reaction to others’ disconnections. Is disconnection the new vacation?
— Greg Hanscom (@ghanscom) June 9, 2014
There are projects like Tech Timeout, which explore anxieties around what our digital connections are doing to our physical ones. Check out this video by Seattle filmmaker Michael Stusser and KIRO radio’s Marty Riemer …
There are thoughtful critiques about whether the “disconnectionists” are actually the problem, as in this New Inquiry essay by Nathan Jurgensen…
The disconnectionists establish a new set of taboos as a way to garner distinction at the expense of others, setting their authentic resistance against others’ unhealthy and inauthentic being.
And then there are videos like the wildly successful “I Forgot My Phone,” which pinpoint just how anxiety driven these questions seem to be. No dialogue. Just relatable, familiar scenes that together feel tragic:
Is unplugging from the hyperconnected world a healthy refresh or a distraction in itself? What are we really seeking? What are we actually afraid we’re losing or missing?
I’m not sure where we’ll end up. Despite efforts from the likes of University of Washington researcher Kirsten Foot, I don’t think we’re sure yet where we started.
But I’m glad we’re on the move.