Another Kind of Technological Alienation [8:07 am]
Say you’re headed for a meeting with an important client and need to be bold, aggressive, pumped up. A licensed M.D. — that would be “musical doctor” — might prescribe Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” with its driving, syncopated beat and its now-or-never refrain, “You’ve only got one shot, do not miss your chance” to seal the deal. Prepping for a job interview and need something to boost your confidence but also calm your nerves? “Smooth Operator” by Sade can make you feel like James Bond without the messy duty of killing archvillains and waves of henchmen. These selections work for me, at least. The point is that anyone can, to some extent, guide the way he or she feels.
Apple sold 5 million iPods this past Christmas season alone, which poses an obvious question: Why do so many of us need to block out the world and rearrange our moods this way? I think it’s because our lives don’t give us time to do it the old-fashioned way.
We’re always plugged in: The cell phone rings. The PDA chimes an alarm. The BlackBerry buzzes in its awkward holster, or the Sidekick signals an incoming instant message that demands an equally instant response. We tote around our laptops and WiFi while we sip our lattes in Starbucks.
This is no Luddite yawp, mind you — I can’t imagine a world without cell phones, and the BlackBerry that lets me sit in a cab in Washington, exchanging gossip with an old friend on his farm outside London, is indistinguishable from magic.
But we should realize that constant interaction truncates the mental treks that once led us to our moods — the sustained train of thought, the extended reverie, the day-long smolder, the can’t-get-it-out-of-my-head anticipation, the lingering funk. It used to take a while to internalize a slight to the point where we reached a proper state of righteous indignation, or to reflect on our many blessings and soar into unbridled joy. But there’s no time, and the cell phone keeps ringing. We plug in our ear-buds and whisper-click the wheel to shut out the world and get our heads where we need them to be, in a hurry.