We tend to think that the offline and the online are of two different realms, with sign-in screens acting as a portal. On the one side: babble, blog posts, centrifugal bumble puppy, Tinder, disengaged tweens, the Kardashians, hyper-regressive attention spans, Facebook farce, The Matrix. On the other: books, truth, orgasmic eye contact, the Socratic Method, a hike through Canadian forests, reality, patience, conversations with Oprah.
Yeah, I don’t think the Internet has done anything but dramatically amplify and magnify traits that were already there. I have to agree with Scalzi here:
The online world can be distracting and alienating, but it is often so because people are often inclined to be distracted and alienated. If you’re one of those people, it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, you’ll still be inclined toward distraction and alienation. You could be in a monastery on the slopes of the Himalayas and get distracted by the snowflakes. No satori for you! On the other hand, dude, snowflakes.
And I still say it’s a mistake to just take people at their word when they claim to be distracted against their will, despite their best efforts. Are our gadgets really so fiendishly well-designed to hijack the reward centers of our brains, swiftly and irrevocably altering them beyond our control? To borrow a concept from Nicholas Humphrey who was in turn borrowing it from David Hume, it seems far more likely that people are shirking responsibility for their own satisfaction and excusing behavior they think others will disapprove of by claiming to be powerless to stop it.