Summary of The End of Absence

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The End of Absence book summary

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People who were born before 1985 are part of the last generation in history who remember what life was like before the Internet. In the world before digital media you had to go to a library to look up information; you found your way on a trip by using printed, folding maps; and you couldn’t summon funny cat videos on demand. However, the pre-Internet era let you experience the pleasures of “absence” – the ability to disconnect from other people and the rush of life. Journalist Michael Harris argues that absence is precious. Being eternally plugged into a data maelstrom leaves you little time or attention for the aimless musing and daydreaming that fosters creativity. If your brain is constantly distracted and multitasking, it may lose the capacity for sustained, quiet focus. Harris’s lively prose keeps his extended essay from turning into a more superficial depressing jeremiad. An entertaining, funny writer, he enlivens his analysis with witty anecdotes about his own struggles with compulsive connection. getAbstract recommends Harris’s insights to parents, content providers, Web developers, Internet addicts and anyone who wants a little quiet time without a flashing screen to distract them.

About the Author

Journalist Michael Harris is a contributing editor at Western Living and Vancouver magazines. He has written for Wired, Harvard Business Review and Psychology Today.


Constant Connection

You live in a “Gutenberg moment.” In 1450, Johann Gutenberg’s printing press ignited a revolution that transformed the world. Printed books opened broad new avenues to learning, undermined the authority of institutions like the church and helped touch off an explosion of scientific progress. Today, the Internet is sparking a similar transformation, but one that’s even more far-reaching and that’s happening at an accelerated pace. The “digital native” generation that grew up with the Internet lives in a world of constant connection, with instant access to each other and to information on every topic. They won’t appreciate what they lost in the transformation. They won’t know about “absence,” the quiet spaces of life when you’re silent and solitary, not monitoring your friends’ statuses or broadcasting your thoughts. Solitude, peace and idle musing offer benefits that enrich daily life and make connection more meaningful.

The Gutenberg revolution unfolded over several centuries. The digital revolution seems almost instantaneous. From the early 2000s to the early 2010s, Internet use grew 566%. By 2012, people around the world were posing more than ...

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