WHAT: “Have We No Sense of Decency, Sir, at Long Last?: On Adult Diapers, Erectile Dysfunction, and Other Joys of Oversharing.”
My TRUE/SLANT essay on the Death of Shame, the Plague of Oversharing, and the Frenzy of Social Networking in the Age of Always Connect.
The totemic technologies of our times—the cellphone, the iPod, the Blackberry—are turning our psyches inside out, reversing the polarities of public and private. They make solitude portable, encapsulating the solipsistic self in a media bubble. More and more, we’re alone in public, oblivious to the world around us. Thus the ubiquitous obscenity of couples sitting together in restaurants, each gazing vacantly into the middle distance as he or she brays into a phone, or of people unashamedly texting away in the midst of social gatherings or, even more scandalously, during movies, the screen’s glow distracting everyone nearby. (A friend recently witnessed a scuffle between a compulsive texter and another moviegoer, who in a paroxysm of irritation snatched the woman’s phone from her.) Yet more dramatic evidence of the growing tension between electronic solipsism in public spaces can be found in the ever more common phenomenon of the stranger with the headset, chattering blithely about her irritable bowel as she elbows past you at the supermarket meat counter, or—even more appallingly—the cellphone conversation floating out of a bathroom stall, punctuated by the unmistakable plop of a bowel movement in progress. (Is there a surer sign that Western civilization is in its terminal stages?)