Thursday, January 28, 2010

Re: Sex and the Digital City

Picked up Robert Wright’s posting in the Times Opinionator blog a couple of days ago entitled “Sex and the Digital City”, and my takeaway -- beyond the impression that he’s my kind of writer, with just enough post-ironic, witty self-awareness in his prose to make his point palatable -- is that he touched on a couple of critical points about our culture and way information is disseminated in a hyper-connected age.

This concept appears to be the elephant in the room that everyone can’t stop talking about, and yet couching it in terms of marital fidelity lends it a visceral quality while simultaneously stripping the ever-titillating topic of who’s-screwing-who of some of its juice. Wright maintains that the age of paperless communication is actually the age of immortal ‘paper’ trails, and whether you’re a pro golfer or the Governor of a small southern state or just the philanderer next door, you can expect your latest tryst to be accompanied by an army of zombie missives revived from trash folders and T-Mobile’s memory banks.

And like all good zombies, they don’t stop until they consume everyone’s brain.

Wright asks, toward the end of his piece, whether our new culture scourged with binary sex zombies (which, Dave Barry (if you’re reading), would make an excellent name for a rock band) will lead to fewer instances of infidelity, out of fear of exposure, or more, having created an environment where such deviancy is effectively the norm. He hinges this argument on increasing instances of hypocrisy- the more hypocrites get exposed, the more a particular behavior becomes acceptable.

Without agreeing completely with Wright’s conclusion, I believe that the modern information echo chamber lives on hypocrisy of this kind, and it will continue to feed itself with the help of its information-zombie minions. There is no escape.

Does that mean the collapse of American family life, and the dissolution of faithful marriage in general? No.

A little erosion, perhaps, but nothing that the previous half-century hasn’t already sloughed away.

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