Everyone knows this. Everyone knows what it looks like.

Everyone knows this. Everyone knows what it looks like. I can’t count how many pieces I’ve read about how alienated we’ve become, tethered to our devices, leery of real contact; how we are heading for a crisis of intimacy, as our ability to socialise withers and atrophies. But this is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. We haven’t just become alienated because we’ve subcontracted so many elements of our social and emotional lives to machines. It’s no doubt a self-perpetuating cycle, but part of the impetus for inventing as well as buying these things is that contact is difficult, frightening, sometimes intolerably dangerous Your favourite part of having a smartphone is never having to call anyone again, the source of the gadget’s pernicious appeal is not that it will absolve its owner of the need for people but that it will provide connection to them –connection, furthermore, of a risk-free kind, in which the communicator need never be rejected, misunderstood or overwhelmed, asked to supply more attention, closeness or time than they are willing to offer up.

~ Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

Photo: Luca Pietrobono with smartphone


  1. A fascinating perspective and one that rings true to me. I can’t help but think that the rancor and intolerance that prevails in public discourse these days is due in part to the fact that, in many ways, we’ve stopped talking to one another, looking each other in the eye and seeing firsthand the emotional impact our words are having on another individual. I really worry about the path we’re on….

    Liked by 4 people

  2. We need to risk showing ourselves again. There is little to be gained by this kind of anonymity other than a flawed comfort.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yes. Agree. But like dieting, it’s just too easy to cheat.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Here’s another from Olivia:

      It was the epicentre of the twenty-first century, and I lived in it accordingly. Every day I’d wake up and before my eyes were even properly open I’d drag my laptop into bed and lurch seamlessly into Twitter. It was the first thing I looked at and the last, this descending scroll from mostly strangers, institutions, friends, this ephemeral community in which I was a disembodied and inconstant presence. Picking through the litany, the domestic and the civic: lens solution, book cover, news of a death, protest picture, art opening, joke about Derrida, refugees in the forests of Macedonia, hashtag shame, hashtag lazy, climate change, lost scarf, joke about Daleks: a stream of information, sentiment and opinion that some days, most days maybe, received more attention than anything actual in my life.” And Twitter was only the gateway, the portal into the endless city of the internet. Whole days went by on clicking, my attention snared over and over by pockets and ladders of information; an absent, ardent witness to the world, the Lady of Shalott with her back to the window, watching the shadows of the real appear in the lent blue glass of her magic mirror. I used to read like that, back in the age of paper, the finished century, to bury myself in a book, and now I gazed at the screen, my cathected silver lover.

      ~ Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (Picador, March 1, 2016)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. So true, love this. If I had to say the most common problem people come to counselling for, it would be that they feel disconnected. But often everyone seems to be waiting for someone else to make the first move to repair this issue, that can only be repaired by reconnecting to ourselves. We are globally out of balance with nature and ourselves and it is hard to find our way back. 🙏🏻

    Liked by 3 people

  4. this is so very true. and there is something being said about actually talking, ‘live,’ interacting and reacting to another person. even when there is an awkward gap, or something that is hard to hear or respond to. such is the art of humanity and life. it’s all about the real connection, without a buffer in between.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “contact is difficult, frightening, sometimes intolerably dangerous”
    Oh, goodness, this is me. People, real people, are incredibly hard. Most days I feel like I’ve lost all my social skills, not because of technology, but the changes I’ve had to make to live with bipolar disorder. And, of course, the illness itself creates impediments. I don’t understand what people want, how they think. I can’t tolerate the mindlessness–people who talk over one another, leave their messes for others to clean up.

    But I am comforted by strangers—the check-out ladies at the grocery store, the baristas at Starbucks, the guys in blue aprons at Menards—who are kind, and funny, and helpful. I’m touched by those folks who put themselves out to answer my question or solve my problem—the chatty bank teller, the dental receptionist, the librarians.

    Intimacy is heartbreaking, disappointing, traumatic. I practice and practice and practice to not be overly sensitive, or take words/actions personally, but the landmines are endless. Texts are worse. Way too easy to misinterpret. But here in Blogland, I can find sensitive, caring folk, if only for a moment, that I can feel connected to. It helps.
    (Geez, I hijacked your blog to write my own post. Sorry, David).

    Liked by 6 people

  6. This is indeed a disease. I am lucky in that I do have friends who refuse to take out their phones when we are together (until a group photo is needed!)
    I’m always taken aback when I’m told that all this technology has brought us closer! What? They insist that they connect with people they
    Would.bot normally… like a texted “hello” is better than silence…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. hmm…methinks we doth protest too much…I believe books, the radio, tv were all once evil….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. There’s something afoot, pal. Just saw this post in the newsletter from my local NPR affiliate. http://wbur.fm/2o1rAAS Not chattering like magpies over a cup of coffee? Heresy!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mostly Cher, mostly true
    Somebody, somewhere turn off the phone
    Everybody, get out and leave me alone
    You got to be strong when you’re out on your own
    ‘Cause sooner or later we all sleep alone

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nat Roberts says:

    Reminds me a bit of a Johnny Depp movie “Transcendence”. A bit eerie but thought provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sometimes it’s eerie how certain blogs resonate other’s days events. I went walking down our paths on my property, and wrote this: I often wonder if I could just give it all up. The job. TV. The Internet. If I could just sit and write and walk and write and clean house and write. Or paint. Or draw. Listen to music and just be one with the seasons. Sleep when I’m tired, move when I’m awake. If I could leave it all behind.

    We all wonder that. More often than we care to admit. The only down side, is that I wouldn’t be able to read your blogs!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. roseanne333 says:

    Such good food for thought. It’s about balance for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Christie says:

    When I am out and about I hate seeing other drivers talking on the phone or sending a text…they are so misguided, imho….I have finally linked my cell to bluetooth works great when someone else is driving…I make a point to occasionally leave the cell in the car, that way I can experience freedom while going about my errands…Since late last Fall I make a point to take one to three days a week without computer use and I do not have a smart phone. I check facebook every one to three months…I like to live an intentional, slow, flexible life…I am grateful to be able to do this.

    Liked by 1 person

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