Margins: The Brothers Karamazov (Book VI, Chapter 3)

March 11, 2013

In which Fyodor Dostoevsky, writing more than a century ago, expresses pessimism regarding the future advent of social media:

We are assured that the world is becoming more and more united, is being formed into brotherly communion, by the shortening of distances, by the transmitting of thoughts through the air. Alas, do not believe in such a union of people. Taking freedom to mean the increase and prompt satisfaction of needs, they distort their own nature, for they generate many meaningless and foolish desires, habits, and the most absurd fancies in themselves. They live only for mutual envy, for pleasure-seeking and self-display.

(From the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation.)


Social commuting?

July 3, 2012

When last a commuter (now there’s a way to start a blog post!) – a few years ago, from Aylesbury – I was able to work, sleep, read or listen to music in transit. I once again find myself encased in a train for a couple of hours a day. But as well as working, reading and enjoying music (I haven’t yet slept, believe it or not, apart from last week after a couple of beers with Rich and having just told him how I never sleep on trains – typical) I have a new option open to me: I can keep in virtual touch on Twitter. Over time will this make my commute immeasurably better, will its appeal wane, or will tweeting actually make travelling worse? The case for the defence: commuting can be lonely, however crowded, and certainly dull, and there’s plenty of evidence to show that interacting with people is good for the soul. Against this: given loads of the twitterers I follow are also people who I work with or who tweet about stuff that reminds me of work, is Twitter simply going to make it even harder to switch off?

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