J.G. Ballard's Death of Affect

British novelist J.G. Ballard wrote the postmodernist classic Crash and coined the phrase "Death of Affect".

'Affect' is a term used by psychiatrists to refer to emotion, as in 'being affected by something'.

Technological advances, Ballard theorized, return us to a kind of infantile mental state 'where any demand, any possibility, whether for lifestyle, travel, sexual roles and identities, can be satisfied instantly'.

The convergence of "mass-merchandizing, advertising and politics conducted as a branch of advertising" has transformed our reality into that is based on signifiers, or representations of things instead of the actual people/places/things themselves.

More than a few scholars have claimed Ballard's entire body of work is a study of our inability to feel. In The Terminal Beach, his 1964 collection of short sci-fi, the title story deals with a man who can't get over the deaths of his wife and son and smuggles himself onto an island where nuclear tests are being carried out. 

He encounters two visiting scientists who are on the island to conduct biological research. The exchange between Travern and one of the scientists neatly sums up where Ballard's concerns lie:
'"Doctor," he said, "Your laboratory is at the wrong end of this island."
Tartly Osborne replied: "I'm aware of that, Traven. There are rarer fish swimming in your head than in any submarine pen."
reStart, a 45-day detox program for Internet addicts, opened in Falls City, WA, last August.  From their press release:

"The program employs a combination of mindfulness training and meetings based upon the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, as well as nutritional education and adventure expeditions with the end goal being to help the patient re-establish connections to the real world."

The program costs $14,500 USD (plus fees) for the 45-day stay.

Dr. Oz has a much cheaper - although much less comprehensive - Digital Diet plan, which includes the following suggestion:

"Go Analog! Get out a paper calendar and jot down real-world activities and plans on it."      

In a USA Today profile of 5 readers who attempted to overcome their technology dependencies, one participant put it this way:

"I text more than I talk. I'm almost afraid that sometimes I don't know how to communicate with people." She says her phone is not just smart, it's tantamount to her second brain

So it seems Ballard's Death of Affect is reaching new heights. Over at fourhourworkweek.com, author Tim Ferriss blogs about living on a "low information diet" and this post about Not-To-Do Lists is particularly helpful.

The most accessible, cheapest way to have a successful Internet detox? Go camping for a weekend.