“I wanted to remember the absences that online life had replaced with constant content, constant connection. I’ve remembered what it is to be free in the world, free from the obliterating demands of five hundred ‘contacts.’”
Author Michael Harris shares this journal entry near the end of an “Analog August” (a self-enforced month without a smartphone and other internet devices) in his 2014 book, The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection (The Penguin Group). Mr. Harris examines the loss of absence from the perspective of the digital immigrant generation—those of an age to recall life both before and after the ubiquitous online world. Do you remember what it was like to cast an empty gaze out the window of the car on a long family trip? To vaguely wonder what the couple down the street was discussing as you waited for your bus? Do you remember being alone with your thoughts and just . . . being? Mr. Harris takes a digital immigrant journey of exploration through our technology-infused society and technology-induced angst, culminating in his own attempt to recapture absence.