Usually I don’t focus too much on particular books on MillersTime, at least not until the year end post of Favorite Reads of the Year.
But I recently finished Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now and didn’t want to wait another six months before I wrote about it.
I want to be careful about over hyping the book, but I want to draw it to your attention.
For me, Rushkoff connects lots of pieces of what I feel personally about what is happening in our lives with the advent of the Internet/digital age, in my life, in the lives of people around me, in our society, and in the direction of where we as people are headed. (I wrote about this topic in an earlier post, One Downside to our Smart Phones, iPads, etc.)
Rushkoff writes in the Preface about what he terms ‘”the new ‘now'”:
Our society has reoriented itself to the present moment. Everything is live, real time, and always-on. It’s not a mere speeding up, however much our lifestyles and technologies have accelerated the rate at which we attempt to do things. It’s more of a diminishment of anything that isn’t happening right now – and the onslaught of everything supposedly is.
He calls it present shock, and he explores how and why this is occurring and how it is affecting our lives. He focuses on five areas:
- Collapse of the Narrative
Don’t get stuck on the words. It’s his somewhat awkward terminology for how present shock is manifesting itself in our lives. But the book and Rushkoff’s explanations are not awkward. They are illuminating, and they make sense of what I think many of us are sensing.
I purposely read the book in hardback so I could underline what I wanted to highlight.
My book is a mess. There is barely a page that is not marked up, underlined, checked, etc.
In his analysis of what is happening in all aspects of our society, Rushkoff’s focus is not primarily to praise it nor damn it. He explains it.
Plus, he argues that we do have choices and writes about “what we human beings can do to pace ourselves and our expectations when there’s no temporal backdrop against which to measure our progress, no narrative through which to make sense of our actions, no future toward which we may strive, and seemingly no time to figure any of this out.”
I have always felt that when some new technology appears (TV, for example) that there is a period when we often over use it and then, hopefully, learn to make it ours rather than become a servant to it.
The advent of the Internet and digital age, with the computer, cell phones, social media, etc. feels more powerful, more intrusive, more all consuming, and thus the power that it holds over us, over me, is more powerful too.
Present Shock goes a long way toward explaining many things that I, for one, am feeling and am experiencing these days, and helps me both understand it and consider what perhaps I can do to exert some control over the parts of this new world that is bringing both great pleasures and some serious losses.