The End of Absence by Michael Harris
Michael Harris is the author of “The End of Absence : Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection,” a new book about how technology affects society. It follows in the footsteps of Nicholas Carr, whose “The Shallows” is a modern classic of internet criticism. But Harris takes a different path from those that have come before. Instead of a broad investigation into the effects of constant connectivity on human behaviour, Harris looks at a very specific demographic: people born before 1985, or the very opposite of the “millennial” demographic coveted by advertisers and targeted by new media outlets.
These people, says Harris, are the last of a dying breed. “If you were born before 1985, then you know what life is like both with the internet and without. You are making the pilgrimage from Before to After. That means being able to notice things like the reduction of interactions to numbers, and how that translates into quantifications of human worth. I think it has to do with this notion of online accountability. That is, noticing that you actually count seems to be related to a sense of self worth,” he says over the phone from Toronto, where he is based.
“So it’s like if a tweet gets retweeted a couple of hundred times, that must mean that my thoughts are worthy. If my Facebook photo is ‘liked,’ that must mean I am good looking. One of the things that concerns me about a media diet that is overly online, is that we lose the ability to decide for ourselves what we think about who we are.”