The internet is a rather polarizing force, drawing us in with its promise of vast pools of knowledge and greater efficiencies, at the same time it overwhelms us with superfluous information and whittles away our attention spans. It is the driver of behavioral shifts that have happened so gradually, that it’s difficult to say whether the web evolved alongside of us or we along with it.
And now that we’ve welcomed this convenient, pervasive technology into our lives and are finally beginning to understand its impacts – both good and bad – how do we step back and achieve a balance? If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not some modern day Luddite with a rotary phone or a hardcore second-lifer in need of a 12-step intervention, but the question is still a valid one.
In an effort to dial back this online noise, John Freeman has penned his personal manifesto for what he calls “Slow Communication,” in a piece for the Wall Street Journal that has been adapted from his forthcoming book, “The Tyranny of Email“. In it, he argues for the considered and the physical as a necessary antidote to the pace and lack of context provided, where speed is too often confused with progress and efficiency.
We were particularly struck by Freeman’s provocative query that asks, “How many of our most joyful memories have been created in front of a screen?” While we might not have collectively reached this point yet, it certainly raises interesting ideas about what our future constructions of meaning might come to resemble if we continue on our current trajectory.
Freeman concludes with an appeal to the fleeting, the personal and the unhurried as a way to preserve our happiness and sanity without completely halting the way forward:
We are here for a short time on this planet, and reacting to demands on our time by simply speeding up has canceled out many of the benefits of the Internet, which is one of the most fabulous technological inventions ever conceived. We are connected, yes, but we were before, only by gossamer threads that worked more slowly. Slow communication will preserve these threads and our ability to sensibly choose to use faster modes when necessary.