I wish my memory worked differently. I’d like to be able to conjure up an accurate image of my consciousness from, say, 25 years ago. You know what 25 years means: No cellphones, no e-mail, no Internet, no social networking, and only the most primitive of personal computers. What I want to answer is a single question: Was I as addicted to the future then as I seem to be now?
I ask this because I really enjoy a new update to my operating system, like the one I downloaded from Apple earlier this week. I find it surprisingly pleasing when one of my iPhone apps requests an update too. Every day I await, with anticipation, a long list of e-mail messages that could arrive at any second, and there are several people I’m really eager to get a text from. Those, too, could come at any time. Soon — even now — I could find my feed-list in Google Reader delightfully stuffed with newness. I am not a Twitterer. But I know the dismay the Twitter world must have felt during its service disruption last week.
When I think back 25 years, there just wasn’t that much to be waiting for. The phone might ring — and if you left home, you had to leave without it. The mail would come, and so might UPS or Federal Express. Someone might stop by on the spur of the moment. A fax perhaps? And that was about it.
I’ve always looked forward to the mail coming. I don’t know why. And now I live in a world where the mail comes constantly, ceaselessly, a world where I find myself dismayed by the slowdown in blog feeds over the weekend. I consider myself a moderate user of personal electronics. I almost never wear earbuds. And yet this constant foretaste of the future, this hunger for the next electronic blip, feels to me like a full-blown addiction.
Which is why I’d like a clearer picture of my old self. Was I a little more serene 25 years ago? Was there a little more silence inside my head? A little less expectation? Or was I leaning headlong into the future even then?