Paradoxically, Engage and Distance

Laurence Scott writes so beautifully.

The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World is no snap and jab at human Internet habits but an appreciation of people’s inner needs and outer foibles.

More About Laurence Scott

When he shares the comings and goings (and habits) of the ever changing people in the flat downstairs by monitoring the flat owner’s Airbnb page, it is pretty much prose poetry. His references to classics, “always winter, never Christmas” (Narnia) as a way of describing the portal that the Internet has become and “each a mystery to another” (Dickens) in our stealth and superficial engagements puts “finger shaking” in a whole new perspective. We do this because we need this, Scott says, because it softens the isolation that occurs naturally in an over scheduled world.

Laurence Scott

Why do people appear happier when they are on their smartphones? The facial lines soften, the body grows limp, and we block out the world around us, paradoxically in order to engage and distance. (The television does this too but we are limited in ways we can direct it.) The Internet is our constant faithful companion, ready when we need a break or comfort, even as it soothes us with its gentle addictive murmurs and flashy vacation sites.

And like another addiction, pornography, the Internet has created an over use of the descriptor “porn.” We indulge in things, secretly we think, which might raise an eyebrow because of our obsession – car-porn, fashion-porn, and house hunting-porn.

Not to worry, says Scott. When we are ready to take a break or leave it entirely, we can simply “ghost” away, no final words or dramatic exits, still allowing others to search for us if they are curious or lonely.

A haunting and beautifully written book.

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