“The title essay of Joan Didion’s new collection is the best short piece on the late 1960s that I have yet read.” — Robert Towers, The New York Times, June 17, 1979
We log onto Facebook in order to live. The local mom cracks the one surprising secret to losing belly fat. The African child-enslaver will be arrested following our signing of the online petition. The former work colleague who has won a lifetime supply of Pepsi MAX either will or will not share his haul with the first ten people to like his status.
I am talking here about a time when I began to sync all the gadgets I had ever purchased for myself, a common condition but one that I found daunting. I suppose this period began around 2007, when the first iPhone was released, and continued until the time Google Glass was released in prototype.
During those five years I appeared, on the face of it, a connected enough member of some online community or another — a writer of blogs, a poster of pilfered quotes re-shared on Pinterest without attribution, a viewer of YouTubes involving vocalizing pets or foul-mouthed teenagers riffing in their dormered bedrooms.
It was a time in my life when I was frequently “tagged,” along with other Netizens who seemed to keep in touch and do good works. I did no good works, but I tried to keep in touch. I recognized my mobile number when I saw it. I set my notices to vibrate but remembered to check them before bed, after breakfast, in the presence of my personal trainer and on the commuter rail. Once in awhile I even answered emails addressed to me, not exactly upon receipt but eventually, particularly if the emails had managed to evade my spam filter. “During my hiatus from The Cloud these past eighteen months,” such replies would begin.
To pack and carry:
iPhone 4 in white
HP TouchPad running Android 4.0
Beats by Dre
This is the gear list that was saved to my Google drive during the years when I was upgrading more or less steadily. The list enabled me to function, without thinking, in any situation I was likely to find myself.
Notice the deliberate agnosticism of the tech: with the first-gen white iPhone I could solicit donors to sponsor iPads for 21st century learning at the public school; with the $99 hacked tablet I could take the kids to see Occupy without the taint of corporate coercion; the red Dre earbuds told everyone at TEDx I was onboard with their expensive optimism. It will perhaps suggest the mood of those years if I tell you that I never once attended a TED talk without simultaneously imagining the better, edited version that awaited me online.
Many people I know through LinkedIn believe that Web. 2.0 ended abruptly on October 5, 2011, ended at the exact moment when word of Steve Jobs’s death traveled like a Twitterstorm over the Internet. The mirror broke that day. The IPO of the ‘00s was withdrawn.
I have known, since then, only a little about the movements of the people who seemed to me emblematic of those years. I know that Anthony Weiner traded away his political career for pix of his junk. I know of course that Alec Baldwin was thrown off an airplane for playing Words with Friends and later married his yoga instructor. I also know that Mark Zuckerberg rang the bell and sealed his fate. Going public, he said the day he opened trading remotely, wasn’t Facebook’s mission. “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected.” Quite often I reflect on my life spent primarily being open and connected, and on the fact that both Mark Zuckerberg and I own hoodies, but tweeting about it has not yet helped me to see what it means.
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