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Heffernan Online

Virginia Heffernan: “The pure abstraction and infinite possibilities of online existence still suit and excite me, and returning to material things and the obligations of creaturely existence can feel like a comedown. But it’s a necessary one. In these days of digital supersaturation, there’s a new, almost yogic poignancy in dropping back into the body. I become embodied again. The sounds that flood in are almost too sweet: my daughter’s made-up songs about the cat and the hardware store; my son’s dinging typewriter; a circular saw my boyfriend uses to, I don’t know, make things. And then everyone’s in for lunch, including the always hungry cat, chewing and slurping. When you live fully online, you assimilate the offline world into the galactic internet, the latest proxy for the mind of God. Yes, I long ago threw my lot in with cyborg living – and you, more sane, may still consider the internet to be the enemy of real life with its birds and sandwiches. But measure your screen time against your waking hours (I’ll wait, smartphones keep a tally), and you’ll see that “majority” barely covers the waterfront. Since I play white noise on my phone while I sleep – pink noise, actually, it’s the latest thing, recommended by the meditation gurus – my screen hours now actually exceed my waking ones. If your screen-time count still amounts to a meagre two hours each day, don’t forget to include Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video and all that Excel and PowerPoint work you do that’s not on your phone.”

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