The Only Way to Defeat Gadgets Is to Ban Them (#352)
Article Club: An interview with Vann R. Newkirk II, author of “When the Myth of Voter Fraud Comes for You”
One of my goals this summer is to become less addicted to my phone. ☎ Safe to say, I haven’t succeeded — yet. After all, making goals is easier than reaching them.
Or maybe I’m not the problem? Maybe the endeavor is impossible, given how technology works, unless I escape from the network entirely?
That seems to be the message of this week’s lead article, “The Medium Is the Menace.” Futurist Andrey Mir argues that as long as we keep clicking and swiping, there’s becoming no real distinction between “the real world” and “the digital world.” We’re just an extension of the machine. We can say that we’re getting off Instagram and Facebook (or TikTok, my favorite) to seek moderation or a digital detox, but ultimately we’re fooling ourselves.
Are you making progress in maintaining your humanity in the face of the inexorable advances of technology? If so, please share your tips and your wisdom!
Also in this week’s issue:
Listen to an interview with Vann R. Newkirk II, author of this week’s Article Club selection, “When the Myth of Voter Fraud Comes for You”
(CAN’T WAIT? HERE IT IS!)
And away we go! I hope you enjoy this week’s issue. If an article, or the interview, or maybe the pet photo resonates with you, please reach out. I’d love to hear from you!
When we find ourselves checking our email, or doomscrolling Twitter, or texting a friend, or playing Wordle, or reading this newsletter (you get the idea), “we’re not just spending time on the Internet,” writes media futurist Andrew Mir in this thoughtful essay. Rather, “we’re investing time in its improvement.”
In other words, we’re performing labor.
For all our time online, we gain convenience, connection, and access. But “all this labor is changing us,” Mr. Mir writes, altering our physical skills, our brain’s physiology, and our expectations of time and space.
But Mark, you say, we already know this! Tell us something new.
That something new is that there’s no real way out. Moderation isn’t the answer. There’s no such thing as moderation. Every time we check our phone, we’re withdrawing ever farther from the physical world. Mr. Mir writes:
The transition from the physical world to the digital world is happening with astonishing rapidity. The shift from nomadic to sedentary culture took millennia; the migration from villages to cities took centuries; the resettling onto the Internet will take about 70 years.
If digital world demands our attention, the only sensible answer is to flee and to spend our time elsewhere, deeply in the physical world. “Media literacy is, first and foremost, time management. Media literacy is the ability not to use media,” Mr. Mir writes. He adds, “The only way to defeat gadgets in the fight for attention is to ban them.”
Maybe we’re too far gone. Maybe it’s too late for us, Mr. Mir suggests. But what about our children? What can we do for our children? (16 min)
Article Club: An interview with Vann R. Newkirk II
The second best thing about Article Club — after you, the kind people who read and annotate and discuss thought-provoking articles every month — is that we get to hear from talented authors, who generously volunteer their time to participate.
That means that this month, we have the pleasure of listening to Vann R. Newkirk, the author of “When the Myth of Voter Fraud Comes for You.”
A few weeks ago, co-facilitator Sarai and I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Newkirk. It was an honor. Thanks to his thoughtfulness, it was a great conversation. We spoke about a number of topics, including how he approached writing the article, how it felt to meet Crystal Mason, why the Republican party is pursuing fake allegations of voter fraud, and what the impact those efforts have on our democracy.
Hope you enjoy the interview. Here it is. Go ahead an press play!
Note: If you click play from your email, it’ll open up to an online version of this post, and you’ll need to scroll back down here and press play again to listen.
Good news: There’s still time to join us in the discussion on Sunday, July 24, if you’re interested. Here’s a copy of the article for you to annotate. All you need to do is click the button below to sign up.
2 More Great Articles For You
Last week’s lead article, “A Kingdom from Dust,” was a bit hit, despite its monstrous 89-minute reading time. I was pleasantly surprised. Thank you to loyal readers Lisa and Corinne and Tim and Lynn and others for sharing your thoughts about farming magnates Stewart and Lynda Resnick. As a bonus treat, here’s Ms. Resnick making a POMtini with Martha Stewart (starting at 4:35). “We invented this!” she says.
This week, here are a couple pieces I appreciated and encourage you to read:
Male celebrities like LeBron James, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper don’t go bald anymore. If you’re a man, why should you? And while you’re at it, why spend $20,000 to pay an American doctor to perform a hair transplant, also known as Follicular Unit Extraction, when you can travel to Istanbul and get one on the cheap? In this well-written travelogue, writer Alex Hawkins chronicles the nitty-gritty of his hair journey from start to end. Some tips: don’t draw your new hair line too low (it’s fake looking), don’t go outside after your surgery (you can’t let your head get wet), and don’t think you’re going sightseeing (you won’t leave your hotel). (18 min)
“There’s the familiar story we’ve been told about depression,” writes P.E. Moskowitz. “It’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, that it’s a disease like diabetes and thus requires medication.” However, this story might be more marketing than medicine. Ever since the release of Prozac in 1986, scientists have not pinpointed how antidepressants work — or if they work demonstrably better than the placebo effect. As prescriptions continue to rise (now one-fifth of Americans take medication for mental health), especially among young people, more attention is being paid to the side effects of psychiatric drugs (e.g., brain zaps, sexual dysfunction, tardive dysphoria) and the difficulty many people face tapering off them. (21 min)
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