Homer's Travels: Book: Michael Harris' "The End Of Absence"

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book: Michael Harris' "The End Of Absence"

For the fourth book of the year I chose Michael Harris' "The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection".

Harris approaches the topic of the Internet and its constant connection as a member of the generation that still remembers what it was like to be Internet-free.  I am of the same generation though a bit older than the author.  The absence he speaks of is the lack of communication, the time away from other people and news, the solitary time we once had.

The book is a bit schizophrenic.  On one hand Harris complains that we no longer have that quiet, contemplative time anymore.  The always on communication of email, texting, and social media always beckons us out of our revelry.  On the other hand he doesn't seem to know how to turn his phone off - claiming that one day he counted himself doing fifty-two email checks.  This doesn't sound like a problem with the Internet and more like a problem of self-control.

He points out how using the Internet rewires the brain.  He talks about the limitations of multitasking and the shortening of attention spans.  All of these things are legitimate concerns but I wonder if they are generational.  Is the rewiring of the brains of the younger generation making them more adept at multitasking?  I think it is too soon to come to a conclusion.

There is a chapter about online dating sites.  He wonders about the benefit of algorithms taking teh work out of choosing a partner.  Then we found out that he met his partner on such an online dating site.  Harris can't seem to make up his mind if he likes it or not.

Most of the book felt like the typical older generation fretting about those young "whipper snappers".  The generation that straddles the big changes are often the ones that have the hardest time adapting.

I gave this book three stars on goodreads though, like the last book I read, I wish I could have given it three and a half.

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