The Sunday, February 5th print edition of The New York Times contained a three-article special within the "Sunday Review" section, titled "Life Under Digital Dominance". The tagline: "We've given up control and lost the fun. Privacy? A distant memory. The cost and consequences." The three individual articles in the special are:
All three articles are worth a close read, but for this blog entry, I'm choosing to focus on the second in order to raise some existentialist questions. Before some of my readers assume I've suffered a typo, a "cyberflâneur" is someone who rather aimlessly peruses the internet, a play on the French masculine noun "flâneur", meaning "wanderer". Quite possibly, it may describe the way you discovered this blog.
This particular aforementioned article raised, for me, an interesting existentialist question: How much of our lives are real anymore? Web surfing used to be a playful time killer to fill the time lapses betwixt our real life schedules. Perhaps we'd log on for a few minutes to check Facebook for new pictures from friends. Or browse the news headlines. Or read a review on the latest piece of technology before driving to Target for a purchase. But now... so much of our life schedules actually are virtual. I must admit that probably 75% of my non-grocery purchases are conducted on Amazon, before I've even handled the item I have dropped in my virtual shopping cart. I maintain a handful of "dear friends" with whom I schedule face-to-face visits. My other "friends" are really nothing more than one-dimensional status updates. And reading the news? I'm juggling at least a dozen opinions on the same topic, eating up time I could be utilizing to develop my own opinion.
Did I "go shopping" today if this entailed sitting in my pajamas at the kitchen table at 1:00 am, dropping photo representations of my purchases into my virtual shopping cart? Did I really "talk to my friend" today if I merely clicked the "thumbs up" button and post a quick "hey, that's cute!" comment on the picture she posted of her cat wearing a baseball cap? Do I really have an opinion on SOPA if all I can do is regurgitate Wikipedia's questionably piecemeal entry? Did I really live today if the only times I peeled myself from my laptop screen were to use the bathroom, grab lunch, and walk the dogs? If my eyes are so glazed over that I have to take a nap when my husband returns home from work (and forgo the only opportunity I had all day for person-to-person human interaction) then did I really ever wake up from my morning stupor before retiring to bed and my virtual dreamworld?
How much of our lives are real anymore?