On writing stories that don’t involve the internet

Do you miss the days when your characters’ problems didn’t involve the internet or smart phones? So does this woman over at LitHub.

On the occasion of publishing a brief collection of some of my older short stories—at the onset of the third decade of a century marked, so far, by our complete submission to market-driven technological distraction and surveillance—I am awash in a kind of nostalgia. Not for a better America. Not for my younger, healthier body and sharper memory, and not for the sweet innocence of my now eighteen-year-old daughter as an infant or toddler or opinionated eight-year-old.

What I miss is writing stories in which a life lived online does not figure—mostly. In three of the five stories in my collection The Beauty of Their Youth, the internet plays absolutely no role. In one there’s a bit of emailing. And in the final, title story, a middle-aged woman confronts the curated myths of a perfect self, both her own and those of friends from her youth, that circulate round the globe.

I remember viscerally despising email, and feeling that the nagging awareness of all the messages I needed to answer was causing real emotional harm—to both my unanswered message-writers and to me. I remember being incredulous when friends told me I had to sign up for Facebook, and then doing it, at the urging of my publisher, when I published my first novel in 2008. I remember overhearing the new president at the college where I teach—whose first order of business was to turn us into an “Apple campus” and order Macbooks for all full-time faculty and all incoming students—telling another administrator, at a meeting, that giving someone a laptop increased their productivity by 50 percent.

I remember feeling sick when he said that. I also remember thinking it would all blow over soon.

One thought on “On writing stories that don’t involve the internet

  1. Nope, not even a little. Outside of science fiction, maybe one recent book in 10 that I read features a cell phone, email, text message, or any kind of communication that wasn’t common prior to 1980, and most of those are written by people under 30. I am so desperately tired of a nostalgic refusal to acknowledge the world we actually live in. It’s been a quarter century since the Internet became a major economic force.

    Liked by 1 person

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