But the digital world also brings dysphoria — a low-level but constant heartbreak that is one of its most controversial side effects. I used to try to ignore the blue mood that haunts much of the writing about the Web. Like a Bolshevik in 1917, I chalked my resistance to its promises up to cowardice and coldly considered a certain amount of individual suffering the cost of the digital revolution. Maybe it was dialectical immaterialism — I thought we were moving away from the stuff-heaps of the past toward lives of near-total abstraction. I also believed that we’d be over our nostalgic fixation on analog culture and its totems very quickly. Even the manual typists and vinyl collectors would find eBay soon, or YouTube or fantasy football, and they’d be off and running.
And yet it’s still here, the persistent sense of loss. The magic of the Internet — the recession of the material world in favor of a world of ideas — is not working for everyone. In essence, we are missing something very worthwhile and identity-forming from our predigital lives. Is it a handwritten letter? Is it an analog phone call? Is it a quality of celluloid film, a multivolume encyclopedia or a leatherbound datebook? Is it a way of thinking or being or even falling in love?
"I thought we were moving away from the stuff-heaps of the past toward lives of near-total abstraction." Virginia Heffernan: Magic and loss