Above all, it seems to me, we face two entwined questions every time we reach towards a screen. What does the computer want us to do—and what do we ourselves want? If we’re not careful, we will only ever answer the first. Ours is a world in which we are nudged, cajoled, bribed, and enticed ceaselessly; in which we are locked in an embrace with tirelessly fascinating tools. More than ever, we must be prepared to admit how messily personal this relationship is; how toxic habit and excessive ease can be; and that, as in all relationships, the easiest and the best option are rarely the same thing.
As the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman once put it, “when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.” If we’re not careful, our days will become a sequence of answers to questions that aren’t worth asking: what do you like, dislike, think in 140 characters; how can a friend most efficiently be acknowledged or dismissed; what distraction might help you forget the life you forgot to lead?