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.