Shteyngart says the first thing that happened when he bought an iPhone “was that New York fell away … It disappeared. Poof.” That’s the first thing I noticed too: the city disappeared, along with any will to experience. New York, so densely populated and supposedly sleepless, must be the most efficient place to hone observational powers. But those powers are now dulled in me. I find myself preferring the blogs of remote strangers to my own observations of present ones. Gone are the tacit alliances with fellow subway riders, the brief evolution of sympathy with pedestrians. That predictable progress of unspoken affinity is now interrupted by an impulse to either refresh a page or to take a website-worthy photo. I have the nervous hand-tics of a junkie. For someone whose interest in other people’s private lives was once endless, I sure do ignore them a lot now.
N + 1, “Sad as Hell,” by Alice Gregory. I really liked this piece. Goes well, I guess, with general modes of politeness in a smartphone age ambivalence that I talked about yesterday. I also enjoyed how straightforwardly written the piece was; often, N + 1 essays can just sound like efforts to bloviate in a way that shows how smart you are (academic as opposed to newspaper-y, I prefer the latter) - this was direct and more affecting because of it.