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Viewpoint: Hours on end

By Eli Cahan, Editorial Board Member
Published December 3, 2012

According to our wonderful fellow student Brandon Shaw’s new book, there are 175 hours in a week — or, at least, there can be. The book, “Twenty Five Hours a Day: Embracing the Internet Generation,” is a testimony to what can be, in what the suits have so aptly named the “information age.” It’s a work defining three completely separate and utterly unique yet interconnected principles: possibility, capability and opportunity, as applicable to physical reality and supplemented by the virtual totality we’ve become so fond of. OK, so that was a mouthful. I’ll try again: Shaw (or should I say, Linder) transcribes his intimate experiences with being told what’s possible, discovering of what he’s capable and taking “seriously and severely” the opportunities that may not have been “possible” but which unveiled themselves once he proved himself “capable.” It’s a work begging us to reconsider our understanding of “reality” in the age of profiles, accounts and handles. Let’s discuss.

I think we should start with the latter first, to lay the interactive framework by which possibility, capability and opportunity find themselves. So what in this paper-forsaken world can we call “reality?” In other words, what do our actions on the Internet mean for our actions when we run out of battery? Shaw asserts that the two are one in the same; they both, for lack of a better phrase, are simply expressions of ourselves. In that sense, our “stalking” on Facebook is equivalent to asking our friends about that hot chick over lunch.

Something of particular interest is, as Shaw calls it, the “serious status.” It’s not that this status intrigues more than any other, but that we can even wrap our heads around the idea that any other might be less serious. “Severity” of expression should not be limited to the times when we are the most desperately in need. I feel as severely against Mark Sanchez as I do against the endless stack of practice tests the night before the big game. I happen to think that what Shaw is questioning is not the content of what we post, but how content we are to seriously and severely take the time to consider it. In this way, our virtual and physical realities are not, but should be, along a continuum, each one referencing and supplementing the other.

Who we are on Facebook is different than who we are in the cafeteria only because our friends do not give us the time we deserve.

And perhaps that is the sin of the constant flow of information — as Roger Scruton so eloquently puts it, our compulsion is to “click on our friends, as you might click on a news item or a music video." They are amusements that are distractions from, not complements to, our daily reality.

So what does any of this have to do with possibilities and capabilities and opportunities? Perhaps, as Shaw writes in reference to relationships, “it begins and ends (with the question): what is ‘normal’ and why should we care.”

I think it has something to do with that natural sin of our generation: procrastination. If we so insistently consider our social media to be exactly that — media — then we ourselves are creating a fragmented normality of our respective realities. That is, so long as Twitter is an escape from an awkward conversation at Skeeps rather than a supplement to that conversation, it will not be normal for us to apply it to real life. If, on the other hand, it was a “social medium,” a true resource for our interactions with one another, then we might be able to consider it normal (and relevant) in daily life.

Possibilities are defined by what we can see. Capabilities are defined by what we (as individuals) would do. Opportunities are created by what we do about what we see —they don’t come looking. “Twenty Five Hours” is a personal account of an experience in which reality includes what we post as well as what we say, in which the virtual world is a normal complement to the physical one, in which social media became a social medium and in which opportunities revealed themselves from the capability to seriously and severely act on the possibilities laid out. Do yourself a favor and read the book. You’ll probably come out as confused and incoherent as me, and at least then you’ll feel some of what I’ve tried.

Eli Cahan is a Business sophomore.