A millennial recently bragged to my friend that he no longer has much reason to leave the comfort of his basement office. There, he enjoys a tri-screen computer setup and can simultaneously manage his business, view porn, and compete in online gaming tournaments from a single cushioned reclining chair. Money to the left of me, sex to the right, and the victor’s glory ahead, he might wax lyrically. Real-world financial, romantic, and combative endeavours cannot seduce him from his cocoon. Our technologically contented contemporaries find it rather difficult to muster a sentiment of existential dependence upon anything greater than the devices that surround them.
Long before the phenomenon of techno-seclusion, Blaise Pascal claimed that the “sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” Pascal envisioned the home as an oasis from distraction, where a man could converse with the wisdom of the ancients and listen to the voice of God in his conscience. Today’s digital possibilities make the home attractive for reasons very different from Pascal’s. Breadwinning through online ventures and entrepreneurial self-employment eliminate the inconveniences of early rising, commuter traffic, and office personality clashes. There are no nine-to-five constraints on money-making potential. There are no coworkers to distract from the goal at hand.
Michael Baggot, writing on the difference between virtual and sacramental reality. I love the sentence I bolded above on Pascal’s vision of home life—conversing with the ancients and considering your own soulfulness. This seems right and just to me,
Something that Baggot gets at in his lamentation/observation, I think, is that our home life deserves to be intentionally constructed. Our electronic technology is now cheap enough to be pervasive, and this means it can seep into the pores of our home life without realizing it. It gets to the point where our parents and children and relatives living or visiting might as well be on FaceTime, so removed as they might be from real encounter or engagement with their fellow family members.
This is to say nothing of the idea of them setting up three screens in the living room during Thanksgiving dinner—hopefully not watching porn while checking the sports scores.