For the last five years Susan Matt and I have been working on a book tentatively titled Bored, Lonely and Stupid; Feelings About Technology From the Telegraph To Twitter. The book is slated for release in the fall of 2018 with Harvard University Press. Below is a summary of what the book is about:
Americans today worry that modern technology is changing their personalities. Is Facebook making us lonely? Is Google making us stupid? Have we become a nation of selfie-taking narcissists? Are we unable to tolerate boredom? Have we lost the capacity to pay attention? Are we still capable of awe? Such questions abound in the popular press, yet they lack a clear sense of the past. This book recounts that untold story, placing contemporary Americans’ emotional relationship with technology in historical perspective, from the telegraph to Twitter. The book shows how American expectations about loneliness changed as the solitude of the prairie gave way to loneliness on the net. Once considered an inevitable and perhaps virtuous part of the human condition, today, in an age of constant connection, loneliness has become a psychological problem and a health hazard. Likewise boredom—the word did not even exist until the mid-nineteenth century, for drudgery and monotony were commonplace and unremarkable. Today, however, Americans confess to being unable to tolerate boredom and rely on digital devices to banish it. Worries about sinful vanity that were sparked by early photography and mirrors have been replaced with anxieties about narcissism on Facebook. This book examines these transformations as well as the changing ways Americans have experienced awe and regarded intelligence.
Using diaries, letters, memoirs, psychological and business texts as well as dozens of interviews with modern Americans, the book rethinks the relationship between our feelings and our technologies. The emotional American of today is not the emotional American of yore; to be bored, lonely, and stupid in the 21st century is radically different than it was two centuries ago. This book explains how, over the last two hundred years, Americans have developed a new sense of what it means to be an emotionally fulfilled human being in a technological world.