Notebook

Try Proust

In a recent video Fabrice Hadjadj reflects on visual media. With panache and economy of means he lists strategies intended to keep us hooked. He speaks of what has become a near-universal anxiety: the fear of missing out. We are vulnerable to algorithms designed to seduce us by means of a perfect mixture of stimulus, suspense, and reward. What does it do to our general outlook on life to watch quantities of little videos with only highlights and no dramatic development to speak of? ‘Over-excitement anaesthetises you. Your attention span is in pieces. Bombarded with news items, you are better informed, no doubt, but you’ve lost your ability to think. A sentence by Proust becomes unreadable to you. A dialogue by Plato seems to you too long.’ What to do then? ‘Disconnect!’

It may be advisable to read a page of Proust from time to time to verify if the time has come to follow this counsel.