The Machine Stops is a dystopian novella about people surrounded with constant comforts that they have nothing to do outside their cells. They lack first-hand experiences, so they only discuss what others before them have seen and done and created. They exist to read and exchange those secondhand ideas through a screen, by means of many buttons, spending most of their lives physically apart from other living beings.
It was written in 1909, by E. M. Forster.
I had recently re-discovered the magical world of Skype. For about 15 minutes, smoothly-streaming audiovisual affection were exchanged with friends on the other side of the world. Since it's a new thing for everyone involved, there were a lot of smiling, waving into the camera and awkward silences of not knowing what else to say, followed by an abrupt "Okay, gotta go, I'm falling asleep."
For me, that exemplifies most of the adventures we have online.
Gtalk, email, twitter, facebook, tumblr, blogs and so much more. The abundance of communication tools has stripped us from having actual quality in the things we say to each other. Out of the hundreds of followers and online friends, how many meaningful conversation have we exchanged? How many meaningful conversations do we need to exchange in a lifetime anyway?
The only way I can understand the world is through reflecting my own discoveries in it. But who wants to go through discoveries all the time? Why not let life discover what we can do to her instead?
Of course, there is an app to cease the flow of communication and allow for ideas to ferment, relationships to strengthen with absence, and quietude to fill the hollows with understanding.
It's the button on our machines that says OFF.
"I think what's really important is thinking about how we can simultaneously maintain a sense of wonder and a sense of criticality about the tools that we use and the ways in which we relate to the world."