The internet is killing us. We’ve become slaves to our devices, and it’s altering our essential humanness. So says writer and blogger Andrew Sullivan, who would know. (See The Last Word.) He spent more than a decade “living in the web,” waking each day to consume and produce an endless barrage of news and tweets and memes before he realized that his addiction to nonstop information was destroying his relationships and jeopardizing his health. He could no longer read a book for more than a few minutes; his fingers would start twitching for a keyboard or a screen to scroll. And now, he says, the web saturation that led him to feel increasingly removed from the real world is becoming the default for the rest of us. “Just look around you,” Sullivan writes, and you’ll see social media junkies everywhere, heads bent to the glow of their phones. In the coffee shop, at the playground, and around the dinner table, “we have gone from looking up to constantly looking down.” We are addicted to distraction.
This election has escalated that addiction to unprecedented, allconsuming heights. Virtually every day, there’s a startling new development, and fresh reasons for both Trump and Clinton backers to feel a thrilling surge of outrage. The fluctuating polls provide jolts of adrenalized panic or joy, as the candidates and their partisans warn that the fate of the country and the world will be determined on Nov. 8. At times, it’s felt overwhelming, and most Americans say they can’t wait for the presidential campaign to be over. But whether you’re feeling fired up or utterly disillusioned in the run-up to Election Day, the truth is, it’s been hard to look away. Will we all go into withdrawal when the slogans and sound bites leave our news feeds come Nov. 9? Probably not immediately. But it may be a mere few days before we start scrolling for another fix, our fingers tapping on the next diversion.