“I was in a boat on Ilha Catalina, in California, with my children”, Pamela Paul explains to journalist. “Então, olhei stop or phone and Notre Dame Cathedral was hitting fire. I wrote for my friends who live in Paris: ‘Meu Deus, é horrível’. Later, I received an e-mail from a Hollywood producer who was following me. And I thought: more, if I am on a boat, why am I knowing about the producer and the fire?”
Pamela Paul, a 50-year-old North American and editor-chef of the book section of New York Timesjust published an essay, 100 things we’ve lost to the internet, to try to understand why “we did not live at the moment” and 99 other things that we miss with the internet — the work, for now, is only available in English. The book talks about lost sensations such as “being attentive” to things, sentiments such as “tedio” or even virtues such as “patience”, but there are also many objects, such as “encyclopedia”, or “telefone na cozinha”, “or porta-cartões de visita” or “cartões de aniversário”.
The book was not written to lament a world that disappeared. “I am nostalgic, sentimental and pessimistic, but I am also aware that some of these things are good,” he explains. “Or what would we have feito during or confinement without the internet? Saved our lives”, says Paul by videoconference to EL PAÍS.
Paul intends to force us to take a break so that we can ask ourselves how we got on here. “Sometimes I have little dependency on technology and other times I don’t worry about questioning it because it gives me something I need,” he says. More often we see these duvid: “I post a photo on Instagram and many people like it and I feel very good. But I stopped for a minute and thought: ‘Isn’t that sad too?’ Or what made me feel bem desse modo before? Isso é informação: where did I go before, did I live without it, did I come from another place, how did I change to receive this type of information, right now?”, he asks. “We didn’t stop to say, wait, how did we get here. Or what did we do before everything isto? Let’s sketch.”
Paul does not kill a TV platform on the internet, but a called service dvd.com. The service allows her to always have 4 DVDs at home: when she returns one, we send her another one from a list of films that she is making. Therefore, it is always something that she wants to see, but I never had more than four options. “I prefer to restrict selection and not spend all this time rolling channels. When I go to a hotel or my two sons and daughters go home, I don’t want to see anything. Tudo tem o memo valor”, she affirms. This is the kind of conscious decision that she asks her readers to endorse.
She also wants us to understand that technology is not natural and not inevitable. And that we can have thrown away or limited things that were boas. “We internalize the message from the industry that, if we don’t adopt or use this technology, or we have a problem, we don’t have a product. And that you are a ludita and that you deny or progress”, says Paul, who insists that the great technological companies are before all business: “Is it something that I was created to make a better world? No. We are naive that technology exists to serve us. Absolutely none. She is here to sell us things”.
Her daughter has just entered college and her husband decided to write letters for her. A young man is irritated because he is so forced to go to the mail. But in our family, we don’t want to lose that skill. Um two 100 chapters of the book is precisely called letters to hand. As he works with books, Paul proclaims that, after he stops writing letters, we lose not only the handfuls that we kept in shoe boxes from when we wrote years ago, but also epistolary books and the archives of writers or researchers: “No Times We review at least 10 books of letters per year. You managed to see a different image of someone through their letters and that is all lost. How will it be or future? Darão a senha da sua conta do Gmail?”
Paul says that he who is less than 30 years old will be more “cetic about his future consumption” and “he will say that he does not need something or that it is not worth it to that cost”. Um two chapters are titled Disinhibition, and Paul fears his disappearance among the young: “I have a lot of compaixão for this generation for various reasons”, he says. He reflects on how his adolescence would have been if he had a constant fear that any mistake, slip or indiscretion would be borne by the internet forever. “When I was a teenager, I was very insecure, I did something unbelievably stupid and it made me meme, it would have been frightening”, he says. “Living knowing that everything or what you could do, silly, embarrassing, stupid, risky, dangerous for your reputation could be 100 times greater than you ever imagined and could perpetuate, it is terrifying”, he adds. This fear can change their daily behavior: “As people say that they are risking less, they are safer, of course, imagine the threat of something like this happening”.
Perhaps because of desire, Paul sees some “evidence” that many people want something different: “A longing or desire for a simpler life, pre-internet, even among teenagers. Because it’s exhausting.”
There are more or less predictable chapters in the book, but seeing all 100 together with explanations that vary from one to three pages is impressive. About the fairs, for example, Paul says: “When you left the fairs 20 years ago, I sent some letters in the mail box, some messages in the electronic secretary, I didn’t work, there was something on the table, and that was all. Now it’s like having hordes waiting at the door, you saw that message, what reaction did you have to this photo, did you have 36 notifications, a lot of people wanting to connect with you on LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram. É incansável”, he explains.
Instead of reading the newspaper on a Saturday morning, now we go to consult a social network where thousands of unknown or unknowing shout their thoughts. Paul believes that our bodies do not adapt to the reactions that the world asks of us: “There is a kind of defasagem, our bodies and minds still cannot grasp this new metabolism”, he says.
For example, when you discover that someone is very close to home. More than that, he outlines: “Many times I have completely outlined that this person’s uncle has died because it happened six hours ago and after 30 other things happened. It’s a constant whipping of emotional attention. It’s exhausting. We have so many emotional reactions because there is so much to react to that it is difficult for people to recover at the end of the day”, he affirms.
But how was it before? Is it clear that it was quieter, but, was it better? What gives you the feeling of not carrying a cell phone in your bag?
Hoje, for example, it is very difficult to “get lost”, which is the title of two chapters of the book. But it is better never to lose, logic seems to say. And is there still someone who can cite some magnificent memory for being lost in another city? We didn’t hear anymore, says Paul, the guidance of someone who knows how to get to a place or who knows a city. “Do you feel like meeting up with friends and having someone say ‘No, Sarah and Jeremy are out of town’? They are out of two planes, you shouldn’t worry about them, they are out of it. Now no one is out. You continue to hear everything about Sarah and Jeremy. They will have notifications, they will write to us, no one ever went out to dinner.”
Now, says Paul, “é bom chegar atardado”. It is not more indelicate because it gives you a little more time to sign sozinho with your cell phone. New things cross paths and it is difficult to assess losing. From waiting for the release of a new album or film or the time of the series or the news on TV (be patient!), or visual contact, coming late to answer the phone and not knowing what it was like to pass paper tickets at school.
The book is an avalanche of reflexive nostalgia with the intuition to catalog an everyday world that does not exist but will not return. Paul hopes that we are aware of this and recover pieces that contribute something. It’s not easy: if you want to travel without a cell phone, you have to give up taking photos, having a map, emergency messages (who knows your phone numbers?) or digital plane tickets.
But, in reality, is it possible to get out of the cell phone without disconnecting? “Even when you unlink the cell phone, you know that you are checking things and that you will have to forget them when you reconnect. You are never completely free from the idea of being able to say that you are sozinho in the world”, says Paul.
And, finally, another reflection: “On the internet, nothing ends completely”. Like the former, who before summed up our lives and now are still present because of social networks. The last chapter of the book is precisely about closure or conclusion, which like the internet is never definitive. O pastado always accompanies us.
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