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Net Loss: The Inner Life in the Digital Age:…
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Net Loss: The Inner Life in the Digital Age: Quarterly Essay 72

by Sebastian Smee

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1421,076,932 (3.5)None
We live in an age of constant distraction. Is there a price to pay for this? In this superb essay, renowned critic Sebastian Smee explores the fate of the inner life in the age of the internet. Throughout history, artists and thinkers have cultivated the deep self, and seen value in solitude and reflection. But today, with social media, wall-to-wall marketing and the agitation of modern life, everything feels illuminated, made transparent. We feel bereft without our phones and their cameras and the feeling of instant connectivity. It gets hard to pick up a book, harder still to stay with it. Without nostalgia or pessimism, Sebastian Smee evokes what is valuable and worth cultivating- he guides us from the apparent fullness of the app-filled world towards a more complex sense of self, and the inner life. If we lose this, Smee asks, what do we lose of ourselves? "Every day I spend hours and hours on my phone . . . We are all doing it, aren't we? It has come to feel completely normal. Even when I put my device aside and attach it to a charger, it pulses away in my mind, like the throat of a toad, full of blind, amphibian appetite." Sebastian Smee, Net Loss… (more)

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This Quarterly Essay feels as if it’s written just for me. Net Loss, the Inner Life in the Digital Age by art critic for the Washington post Sebastian Smee explores the doubts we are beginning to have about social media.
Not long ago I had a conversation about my remarkable luck at the Louvre, when it just so happened that The Spouse and I were the only two people in the gallery that houses the Mona Lisa. ‘Did you take a photo?’ I was asked. There was mutual puzzlement. Hers was about why I didn’t, so that I could remember it and prove it happened, and mine because it was an unforgettable magical experience and my friends don’t need me to ‘prove’ my story. This conversation still bothers me because it represents a gulf between the kind of memories I have (and like to share) and those of people who are more connected to their phones than I am. I think it says something about a wariness of ‘fake news’ too.
This is the blurb for Net Loss, from Fishpond:
What is the inner life? And is it vanishing in the digital age?
Throughout history, artists and philosophers have cultivated the deep self, and seen value in solitude and reflection. But today, through social media, wall-to-wall marketing, reality television and the agitation of modern life, everything feels illuminated, made transparent. We feel bereft without our phones and their cameras and the feeling of instant connectivity. It gets hard to pick up a book, harder still to stay with it.
In this eloquent and profound essay, renowned critic Sebastian Smee brings to the surface the idea of inner life – the awareness one may feel in front of a great painting or while listening to extraordinary music by a window at dusk or in a forest at night. No nostalgic lament, this essay evokes what is valuable and worth cultivating – a connection to our true selves, and a feeling of agency in the mystery of our own lives. At the same time, such contemplation puts us in an intensely charged relationship with things, people or works of art that are outside us.
If we lose this power, Smee asks, what do we lose of ourselves?
To explain what he means by ‘inner life’, Smee quotes Chekhov describing Gurov, a character from his story The Lady with the Dog. ‘He had two lives’ writes Chekhov,
one open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret. And through some strange, perhaps accidental conjunction of circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything that made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people; and all that was false in him, the sheath in which he hid himself to conceal the truth — such, for instance, as his work in the bank, his discussions at the club … his presence with his wife at anniversary festivities — all that was open. And he judged of others by himself, not believing in what he saw, and always believing that every man had his real, most interesting life under the cover of secrecy and under the cover of night. (p.3)
Smee sets out to explore this idea that we all have an inner life with its own history of metamorphosis — rich, complex and often obscure, even to ourselves, but essential to who we are. He thinks this elusive inner self is under threat as companies shape our new reality with their powerful tools.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/11/29/net-loss-the-inner-life-in-the-digital-age-q... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Nov 29, 2018 |
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