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What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet - Quartz

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Technology has a lot to answer for: killing old businessesdestroying the middle class, Buzzfeed. 

Technology in the form of the internet is especially villainous, having been accused of everything from making us dumber (paywall) to aiding dictatorships. But Michael Harris, riffing on the observations of Melvin Kranzberg, argues that “technology is neither good nor evil. The most we can say about it is this: It has come.”

We are the only fluent translators of Before and After:

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,” he writes. It is a nice conceit. Harris, like your correspondent, grew up in a very different world, one with limited channels of communication, fewer forms of entertainment, and less public scrutiny of quotidian actions or fleeting thoughts. It was neither better nor worse than the world we live in today. Like technology, it just was.

Being in this situation puts us in a privileged position.”If we’re the last people in history to know life before the internet, we are also the only ones who will ever speak, as it were, both languages. We are the only fluent translators of Before and 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.”

Harris isn’t railing against these things, though.

He doesn’t prescribe fewer internet hours or complain much about “kids these days.” Instead he acknowledges that his worries stem mainly from his anxieties about his own behavior. Like many of us, Harris checks his email on his phone first thing in the morning. “When you wake up, you have this gift of a blank brain. You could fill it with anything. But for most of us, we have this kind of panic. Instead of wondering what should I do, we wonder what did I miss. It’s almost like our unconsciousness is a kind of failure and we can’t believe we’ve been offline for eight hours,” he says. It is habits like this that are insidious, not the internet itself. It is a personal thing.

All social networks are good at covering up absences these days. Facebook especially.

"Kids these days" are trained never to notice the space between the trees, only the trees.  They are data mined and nag-ware'd into always never having an absence on any network, and if they do, all the people's feeds around them are  quickly filled up with any type of correlated content that you may have made the mistake of hitting "like" in the context of something similar.   Facebook covers up these absences so they are never noticed.  Never mind that open space where that mighty tree that was your friend no longer exists, here are some nice shiny trees over here, and btw, we don't really own the forest. 

So we should seek out more open space to make room for the unexpected. 

Amen, Adam.