Staying Fully Human Online

Ross Douthat feels the push and pull of the web:

With rare exceptions, our miraculous communications technologies always seem to tug me toward superficiality and inattention, and away from deep intellectual engagement and true personal intimacy alike. (And I don’t even really use Facebook …) What’s more, the assumption that “humans will always find new ways to stay human” strikes me as too blithely pollyannish: All societies are human, but some are more human than others, and I’m not at all convinced that internet culture is nearly as conductive to the fullest sort of human flourishing, whether personal or cultural or political, as its boosters constantly insist.

On the other hand, the internet isn’t exactly going away, retreating from the world that Mark Zuckerberg helped build isn’t an option for most people  and so Madrigal’s exhortation to mastery is perhaps a more plausible prescription than Smith’s wistful suggestion that we should resist and/or withdraw from social media’s flattening embrace. All of which is to say that you should read both pieces in full, because they both have something important to say about the challenge of staying fully human in the brave new online world.