It’s popular now to call it the echo chamber because of increasingly political and cultural bifurcation in America – but sometimes it seems like the most resounding echo is that of mutual solitudes. Social media enshrines moments of togetherness but also thereby draws attention to their relative rareness compared to the percentage of our daily lives spent ultimately interfacing with screens small, medium, and gargantuan. When we interact with people online, we are afforded a frequency of interactions that is often impossible in the physical world, but those interactions are presented through a number of veils – or literal “filters” – that can ultimately accentuate the distances between us.
And, if a tree falls on Facebook and no one “likes” it, did it really fall?
I’m grateful for the ways technology connects the aspects of me that are uncommon to the distant things and people in the world that are matched to my idiosyncratic tastes. My career has one foot in the digital realm of streaming TV and one foot in the resolutely old-fashioned but ever-vibrant world of live theater. Yet even in the latter space, the vast majority of promotion and transaction happens online, and lavish musicals and pioneering plays make use of effects and staging that would have been out of reach to the first generation of Broadway. Surprising to some, but Broadway is booming, as people seek a lavish night out and something to discuss with those who accompany them there. But then again, TV’s booming, too.
All of this while I’m in a cubicle, trying to sort through a maddening phone tree and a computer system that seems to make it impossible to complete the tasks to enable the arrival of a new intern. In an ideal world, technology would remove the unpleasant labor from our lives and free up our time for community, and for imaginative pursuits of a wide variety. Perhaps the economy will shift to fulfilling new roles for everyone and a superior standard of living. Or perhaps we will find our confused spirits launched out into the capacious voids that comprise most of the universe.