A Man is a Confused Citizen of the Ever-Changing Web

Every time the Google updates Gmail, I spend about a week like a sleepless traveler in an unfamiliar airport. Blinking lights and new shapes, all the wrong colors.

My dad recently passed an observation on to me that he got from some smart person: the airport is the quintessential 21st-century place. The airport combines consumerism, boredom, loneliness, distraction, entertainment, convenience, surveillance, and a sense of dislocated time and space. An airport is full of strangers, often miles from home, mindlessly shopping for disposable entertainment and gadgets they don’t need. They have the freedom to travel almost anywhere in the world, but at the same time, they are under constant surveillance. In an airport, be ready to part with your privacy at a moment’s notice. In most airports, every gate looks the same, so traveling to Omaha is an almost identical experience as traveling to Tahiti. You lose your sense of place. (Pilot Mark Vanhoenecker calls this “place lag.” Get his book if you like flying.) In an airport, you’re usually tired, harried, and confused, but all of your needs can be taken care of in a bland, generic, Band-aid sort of way. In an airport, the world is at your fingertips – and you just want to go home.

Sounds exactly like spending time on the internet.

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