The End Of Absence (Review)

I slid the book out of the shelf at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library Absence-01and immediately felt a connection. I had a feeling that The End Of Absence–Reclaiming What We’ve Lost In A World Of Constant Connection by Michael Harris would validate some of my own opinions about the Internet. The book simply had to come home with me.

The Canadian born journalist and radio personality, who recently worked for “Vancouver” magazine, specializes in writing about the social aspects of technology and about civil liberties. His essays have appeared in several publications and anthologies. Harris lives in Toronto with his partner, Kenny Park, a graphic artist.

Harris realized he was spending more time managing content and less time actually creating it. He became alarmed at how much time he spent checking his emails, texting, updating social media, and using his mobile phone. He backed away from the deluge in order to rediscover an aspect of life that is quickly going away, life before the Internet.

The first chapter confirmed my feeling that Harris and I might be on “the same page”. Neither of us are Luddites. We appreciate and use technology along with the Web, much to our advantage. We both think that a very important aspect of life is being lost because of our increasing interaction with communication technologies. Without being mawkish, we both fondly remember the times before we were connected to the Web.

We both wonder about the price we pay for our plugged-in lives. What about the global generation who has no idea what life was like before the Web? Harris, like me, remembers when we spent more of our downtime, daydreaming, thinking, pondering, and appreciating the “real world” around us. Once in awhile, we still stop and analyze the differences between then and now.

Harris writes about his belief that society is going through a dystopian phase that is gripping our awareness. We seem to be drunk on knowledge and the constant acquisition of it. As a whole, we’re failing to acquire wisdom, while grasping at constant information updates. Hopefully, we’ll outgrow this phase soon and become more thoughtful, intelligent users of new media.

Equally troubling, is the fact that we are always available.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to get away from civilization. We’re a hyper-connected society. It’s hard to get away from other people and develop our own, personal, sense of self anymore. We’re increasingly merging with group-think. We are becoming fearful of disconnecting, so we rush back to our devices for the superficial comfort of connectivity.

Harris does not advocate the total abstinence from connectivity, his idea is more about being fully conscious in our choices of when and how much media we utilize. Mindful utilization and moderation of Web use Michael Harrishelps us to become more responsible, aware human beings. Harris illustrates this concept by personal example.

He performed an experiment of weaning himself away from the Web. After Harris’ withdrawal symptoms subsided, he became the “best boyfriend ever” to his boyfriend. After Harris went back online, he over-indulged in media and became the “worst boyfriend” ever. Unbalance came back into play.

I liked reading about Harris’ hiatus from online activity. For awhile, he didn’t indulge in social media, Google searches, mobile phone, or the Web, at all. He had his friends, family, and associates leave messages on his telephone. Harris finally got around to reading his paper and ink copy of War And Peace.

The End Of Absence is not a critical screed, attacking modernity. It’s more of a memoir and a reminder.  Connectivity is a good thing that can add value to life. The book is a cautionary piece that reminds us of problems like cyber-bullying, role-playing games that substitute for authentic interaction, and texting in place of talking. If a person is not mindful, the new media can quickly crowd into the core of ones life. The blank spaces in our awareness in which we used to think for ourselves, are soon filled with group-think and conformity. We can lose time, in every sense of the words.

During my reading of The End Of Absence, I paused to ponder my own years of life before the Internet. Meditations were longer and more insightful. There was time for much more daydreaming before the Web crept into my life. I had a much better appreciation of solitude, too. Life was less superficial in those days. These memories are not gooey nostalgia, either. Life was qualitatively different pre-Internet. This is not to say my present life is awful. I’m only stating, oftentimes, there seems to be less depth to life, now.

We cannot just live as an independent, sometimes absent, being anymore. We’re constantly “in touch” and connecting with everyone. Many of us, like Harris, are reaching our saturation points. Sometimes we need to step back and reconnect with the real world, instead.

{ The End Of Absence –Reclaiming What We’ve Lost In A World Of Constant Connection by Michael Harris; 256 pages; Published August 7, 2014 by Current (Penguin); ISBN: 978-1-59184-693-2 }

moi1986bThe Blue Jay of Happiness thinks The End Of Absence is a perfect book for National Book Month.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, cultural highlights, Gadgets, Health and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The End Of Absence (Review)

  1. Hariod Brawn says:

    You’re right Jay; I’m going to immediately cull my blog reading list! 😉

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