I have asked students at Free University Berlin to describe digital aspects of their personal lifes. This is what Katie wrote.
It’s 9 AM, on the S-Bahn. Half-conscious, her hand instinctively reaches for her phone in her pocket. But why? She’s already checked her email, checked Facebook, responded to her WhatsApp messages. She has a book in her bag which she needs to finish by next week… she should read that. Plus, looking at a screen so early in the morning isn’t good for her, she knows that. Just put your hand back, sit still, enjoy the moment! …Alas, logic loses to the magnetic pull emanating from her pocket. She grabs her phone, opens Instagram and starts scrolling.
11 AM, sitting in a seminar. She’s taking notes and doing her best to concentrate. But that New Tab button in the browser is calling her. Quickly she opens Facebook. No new messages, and the news on her feed is the same as it was 2 minutes ago. She checks her email. Nothing. But she’s still thirsty. She wants more, she wants new information to stream endlessly before her eyes, she wants to feel connected, and in-the-know.
Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.
6 PM and she’s cooking herself dinner. The kitchen’s too quiet though — there’s a void to be filled. So she grabs her laptop and lets Spotify keep her company as she cooks.
20 minutes later, as she sits down with her meal, she opens Youtube to watch some random videos as she eats. Who wants to eat alone in silence?
Midnight, and she just got home. She’s been out for hours, her phone’s long been dead, the air in her room is perfectly still. She’s tired, and she should just go quietly to sleep. But no—this is prime time. No way she’ll pass it up. She opens her laptop and a world of new stories, new messages, new ideas which have been gathering over the last few hours bursts before her. They’re hers to discover. She settles into her chair and crosses her legs up on her desk. Suddenly she’s not tired anymore. She’s so calm, everything feels so right.
She scrolls and scrolls and scrolls.
From outside her window one can see only the dull glow of her screen, burning for hours into the night.