Several years ago, a friend told me, “I wish I was the type of person who could go 12 hours without noticing a text message” (he’d been waiting for a reply from someone else who apparently was that type of person). I agreed with him then and agree even more now, but this has obviously been a terrible year to want that—it implies having something better to occupy your attention, and even then, your phone is usually within arm’s reach, ready to reclaim that attention the moment it lapses. Increasingly, and especially this year, information—messages, posts, content in all forms—are the primary way we can engage with the world beyond our immediate domestic spheres, and at this point, believing we can escape it all amounts to either a fool’s errand or a monkish rejection of worldly pursuits. Nonetheless, my friend had a point: We are biologically wired for information scarcity but have been thrust into a world of information abundance, so the value of knowledge has collapsed, and unknowing is a precious, often unattainable resource. Living rent free in someone’s head is a phrase used to imply a form of dominance and an undesirable state for them; four years of Donald Trump made many aspire to just get through one day without thinking about him—a goal that would have been easy to accomplish in the past.
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