Only Disconnect is a brilliant piece of work by Gary Shteyngart. It sheds light on the most dangerous tribulation of telecommunication: dehumanisation. Introduction of internet to humanity has led to many changes most of which have a negative impact to the way of living. After acquiring an iPhone, the author’s world changes instantly. He loses almost everything he believed in before the new experience with iPhone and Facebook.
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The best-highlighted form of dehumanisation is solitude. “I walked outside my book-ridden apartment. The first thing that happened was that New York fell away around me” (Shteyngart Para. 3). What the author valued the most before this new experience becomes less important. He no longer notices his surrounding as he walks with his eyes glued to his newly acquired device. His life is now programmed by this device but not by the laws of nature.
Technology has reduced humans to a “techno-fugue state” (Shteyngart Para. 3) that makes them hold onto every word that pops on the screens of their iPhone. People have forgotten the value of interacting with each other as they walk on the streets, sit in the parks, and worse still, as they relax in their lounges in the evenings and on weekends.
The real world comprising of real friends, real conversations, and real emotions has been replaced by the world of social networks in which friends are made over internet and conversations are done through the screens because the time and space for real ones is no longer there.
The physical space has been replaced by the cyber space. This has converted humans from independently reasoning beings to dependent and programmed beings. What they know is that which pops on their screens and this have already been researched, recorded, and transmitted using satellites. Curiosity that leads to new discovery has been crushed with the emergence of the new technology. People follow maps, which narrows their minds only to their destinations.
They do not recognize the activities going on around them as their focus is on the screen and its destination only. “I follow the arrow taco-ward…I nearly knock down toddlers and the elderly” (Shteyngart Para. 3). The author’s attention is so concentrated on the direction of the arrow on the screen that he no longer notices what goes on around him. What was a sensitive case worth concern in the past is now a useless and unimportant event.
Humans no longer value the corporeality outside the cyber space but holds on to the illusions created in it. They no longer want to sweat their way up. “Out of instinct I almost try to press the text of the deckle-edged pages, hoping something will pop up, a link to something trivial and fast” (Shteyngart Para. 5). The author could not help but yearn for a simplified version of the book he was reading. He symbolizes the lifestyle of people living in the cyber-space: simplified and summarized.
Cyber space is addictive and in order to become unhooked one has to set strict measures that are of lesser comfort. The author and his friends had to move upstate in order to concentrate on their reading and get detached from their iPhones (Shteyngart Para. 4). This has turned out to be a form of slavery. Slavery to a very small device which in spite of its size has captured many valuable brains and turned them to something below humanity. It calls for strict self-discipline from every individual in order to restore the deteriorating humanity.
Shteyngart, Gary. “Only Disconnect.” New York Times, 2010. Web.