This wide-ranging account of our emotional responses to technologies, from the telegram to Instagram, shows that technology changes not only how we feel, but what our feelings mean.
Facebook makes us lonely. Selfies breed narcissism. On Twitter and comment boards, hostility reigns. Pundits and psychologists warn us that digital technologies substantially alter our emotional states. But in this lively and surprising account, we learn that technology doesn’t just affect how we feel from moment to moment—it changes profoundly the underlying emotions themselves.
Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid examines nineteenth- and twentieth-century letters, diaries, and memoirs and draws on contemporary research and interviews with Americans of different ages and backgrounds to document how our emotions have been transformed by technological change. Where we now strive to escape boredom, earlier generations saw unstructured time as an opportunity for productivity and creativity. Where loneliness is now pathologized, we once thought of solitude as virtuous. Even as we ask whether technology is making us lonelier, it is altering the meaning of loneliness.
In this timely book, Luke Fernandez and Susan Matt contend that current technology has removed many of the limits on our emotional landscape. Thus we seek to be constantly stimulated, engaged, and validated, while our anger and antisocial impulses are not only unconstrained but affirmed by the digital company we keep.
Online immersion can distort emotion…Marshalling archival sources and interviews, [Fernandez and Matt] trace how norms (say, around loneliness) have shifted with technological change. Broadcasting deregulation under President Ronald Reagan, for instance, made room for anger-inducing right-wing ‘talk radio.’ Yet, as they show, the digital world lifts even more limits, stimulating and affirming a range of negative emotions.
A scholarly attempt to track changes in social norms and in human emotions occasioned by advances in technology across a couple of centuries, but it concludes that our twenty-first-century situation is different from those earlier shifts both in the rate of change and in the problems introduced by cybertechnologies…Narcissus had to find a pool to gaze into; we just pull out our phones.
This is a thoughtfully nuanced take on the kind of ‘is technology killing us dead’ alarmist tracts that have proliferated as ‘smart’ devices have proliferated, an effect largely achieved by grounding the whole question deeper in history. The social reactions to the telegraph, the home radio, the television, and, crucially, a country-crossing modern highway system, all interestingly foreground many of the modern reactions to further inroads made into our private lives by technology on every side.
A valuable addition to the study of social behavior influenced by technologies. The authors have worked hard in aggregating thousands of small pieces of evidence scattered in diverse historical and modern sources to build an illuminating context in which we can begin to fathom our emotional states entangled with technologies.
We take some things for granted today—that selfies make us narcissistic, that social media can make us lonely, and so on. This book adds much-needed historical perspective to these knee-jerk fears, by examining how our emotions have been expressed over time, and how they've been impacted by new technologies along the way.
Impressive…A well-articulated and nuanced analysis of the overlooked symbiosis between the cultural history of emotions and technological developments.
An important contribution to understanding the digital present by showing the historicity and cultural construction of contemporary (digital) emotions—while incorporating the interplay of technology and emotions…As a contribution to the current debate on digital transformation, their book is definitely a worthwhile read.
A powerful story of how new forms of technology are continually integrated into the human experience. A particularly fascinating chapter outlines the history of anger in American society, from a trait to be publicly suppressed…to something which social media has transformed into ‘a right of all’… Anyone interested in seeing the digital age through a new perspective should be pleased with this rich account.
In this wonderful book we learn that new ideas are often just repeats from the past, and we may get more than we bargained for with our latest technological engagements. Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid is a must-read for anyone worried about how today’s surfeit of digital devices may challenge our humanity, and wondering if, given the emotional costs, we might choose another way.
Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid is a crisp and compelling read. The authors make extensive use of on-the-ground human perspectives, from both the historical record and personal interviews, lending the book a verisimilitude that is exceedingly rare.
The time is certainly ripe for a book like this. The premise is remarkably simple: track the ways in which emotions have changed over time in relation to new waves of communication technology. Using reflective storytelling built on historical research and contemporary data, the authors show us just how singular our own moment in time is.
- 472 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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