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Roberts uses Brett Walker, a 29-year-old currently at a rehab center for Internet addicts, to explain the consequences of the online world.
“For four years, even as his real life collapsed, Walker enjoyed a near-perfect online existence,” Roberts writes.
With every new technological development and innovation, today’s businesses learn better how to target our desires and passions, how to market their products to the appetites of the populace.
We’ve never lived in an age in which targeted advertising can become so entangled in our personal, social, and civic pursuits.
In North America and the United Kingdom, and to a lesser degree in Europe and Japan, it is now entirely normal to demand a personally customized life.
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We can move to a neighborhood that matches our social values, find a news outlet that mirrors our politics, and create a social network that “likes” everything we say or post.
With each transaction and upgrade, each choice and click, life moves closer to us, and the world becomes our world. In everything from relationships to politics to business, the emerging norms and expectations of our self-centered culture are making it steadily harder to behave in thoughtful, civic, social ways. We’re uncomfortable with people or ideas that don’t relate directly and immediately to us.
Roberts thinks this heightened awareness of personal desires and passions has also lead to a depletion of real-life character.
“The efficient consumer market cannot abide delay or adversity or, by extension, the strength of character that might be cultivated by delay or adversity,” he writes.