This week I’ve read a couple of articles that discuss the ennui of the Internet age. The first is a Salon profile of the hip New York writer Tao Lin, which features an excerpt from his book Shoplifting from American Apparel:
Sam woke around 3:30 p.m. and saw no emails from Sheila. He made a smoothie. He lay on his bed and stared at his computer screen … About an hour later it was dark outside. Sam ate cereal with soymilk. He put things on eBay then tried to guess the password to Sheila’s email account, not thinking he would be successful, and not being successful.
Daniel Roberts discusses Lin’s style of prose:
[The] term, “depression,” is a bit too clinical in this context. Where Lin is coming from, and what his readers share, is a sense of loneliness. The malaise is not specific to New York, of course, but it is typical of a certain ilk of detached 20-somethings across the country.
The loneliness could be attributed to the Internet. Lin and his literary peers spend hours and hours online, and although doing so fosters a sense of connectedness, it is equally isolating. No matter how many fans or fellow writers Lin “meets” online, at the end of the day it’s still him, sitting at his laptop alone. Any moments of delight or engagement that the Internet prompts are separated by longer stretches of boredom, as implied by the title of a short story by Brandon Scott Gorrell, a member of Lin’s online literary gang. The story is called “Minimizing and Maximizing Mozilla Firefox Repeatedly.”
Meanwhile, the New York Review of Books blog discusses China’s One Child policy, and the detached scions it has produced:
The more he spoke, the more anguished he sounded about losing his son in other ways, too. Even as a youngster the boy would stay in his room glued to his computer avoiding human contact, rarely going out with his few friends. Other Chinese parents I spoke with said similar things about their children, complaining about their remoteness, their social isolation, and their obsession with technology. They seem an alien race of free-floating individuals.