One Second of Love (on the Internet)

"So you can exchange email, or a post or something, and you get this momentary AAH! feeling. And it is very intense, but it is very short."
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There is a feeling people get on the Internet—when an email arrives, or a Facebook message from an old friend, or a particularly good retweet. It's a tiny, perfect rush, as if you had photorealistic volcano—shaped like Mt. Fuji, snow descending its steep slopes—in the palm of your hand, and when it explodes, a blast of intoxicating ambrosia shoots up into your face. 

I am willing to bet that if you've been around on the webs, you know this feeling.

But it remained in my mind as one of the many inchoate emotions one passes through like the wind in city blocks. I noticed some general patterns, but had never even thought to name it. But then I was listening to the lead singer of Nite Jewel, Ramona Gonzalez, talk about her band's song, "One Second of Love," on the Song Exploder podcast. Here's what she says was the inspiration for the title phrase:

"I was thinking how interesting it was that people have these very short relationships and connections due to Internet speed," Gonzalez says. "So you can exchange email, or a post or something, and you get this momentary AAH! feeling. And it is very intense, but it is very short. And that's too bad, basically. Not in the sense that I think it's wrong, but that there's more than that."

All of our relationships can't be miniature ambrosia-shooting volcanoes! The feeling of connection or emotion—the AAH! feeling— cannot be sustained. In the video above, the singers maintain perfect lack of affect as they sing the chorus, "Oh, who has one second of love? / one second of love, one second of love."

If you love music and technology and haven't heard Hrishikesh Hirway's Song Exploder podcast, then allow me to introduce your new favorite radio show. Each episode, Hirway goes deep on a single song, deconstructing its constituent parts—the instruments, engineering techniques, recording studies, vibes—and then plays the whole song at the end, after he's tuned your ears to the possibilities inside every bar. I may have already had more than one second of love for this podcast.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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