During a dinner where cellphones made an unwelcome appearance, a good friend recommended Dave Egger’s “The Circle.” It’s a 1989-type cautionary tale about Big Internet set in a mirror version of San Francisco.
The quote above sums it up, although the characters and plot make it worth a beach read. And, it’s no doubt good to be reminded that social media feeds an emptiness that can only be filled by real human interactions, ocurring without the constant need to affirm their occurence. Does everyone on the known universe really need to know we had a taco for lunch? Does telling the world make the taco better? Or does the telling just distract from the actual, real, delicious, ephemeral taco?
There is a deep contradiction in an indivualistic, progress-driven culture that at the same time is consumed by social media, which is built on caring what the other thinks. Eventually this contradiction drives an inner wedge.
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from the always cheerful Sartre: “L’infer, c’est l’autre.” “Hell is the Other.” To live as individuals swayed by what the Other likes or hearts or stars is no life, because, of course, there is no Other. There is the One, multi-manifested in six billion human minds and hearts.
The emptiness of virtual interactions comes from the illusion they give of real connection between apparently separate individuals. But true connection is derived from realizing there is no separate.
In any event, “The Circle” will be a movie so we can all tweet our thoughts.