Civil society

Are we risking our ability to care?

In an address at Middlebury College, Jonathan Safran Foer raised questions about our diminishing ability to care.

“Most of our communication technologies began as diminished substitutes for an impossible activity. We couldn’t always see one another face to face, so the telephone made it possible to keep in touch at a distance. One is not always home, so the answering machine made a kind of interaction possible without the person being near his phone. Online communication originated as a substitute for telephonic communication, which was considered, for whatever reasons, too burdensome or inconvenient. And then texting, which facilitated yet faster, and more mobile,messaging. These inventions were not created to be improvements upon face-to-face communication, but a declension of acceptable, if diminished, substitutes for it.”

“The  problem with accepting — with preferring — diminished substitutes is that over time, we, too,become diminished substitutes. People who become used to saying little become used to feeling little.”

Perhaps the more emphasis we place on speed at the expense of depth, the less likely and able we are to care…have the empathy and compassion that distinguishes us. And this is also one of the reasons that AIGA believes it has an important role in encouraging thoughtful conversations.

Quoted passages from excerpts of the address published in the New York Times, June 8, 2013 as “How not to be alone.”


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