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The More They Remain The Same

I know David Brooks can’t really be serious when he says things like this, but this is at least the second grand pronouncement this week* and it’s getting out of hand:

But on or about June 29, 2007, human character changed [bold mine-DL]. That, of course, was the release date of the first iPhone.

No, human character did not change.  One thing that has been consistent and recognizable throughout every stage of competing for status and gadget-collecting is the enduring human temptation to fall prey to the latest fad.  I will agree that MySpace is rather like a leisure suit and will be regarded in a very short time to be as tacky and embarrassing as the latter has since come to be, and not just because more interesting social network tools are created, but because it will lose its allure once the novelty wears off.  At the most it will simply become a commonplace thing, no more remarkable in ten or twenty years than CD players were in the late ’90s or DVRs are today. 

The beauty of these silly fads today is that they pass so much more quickly than they once did, if only to be replaced by yet another fad.  It’s like when I was growing up and my friends and I were so enamored of Linux partly because it was experimental, open-source and new, and within a decade it had become a standard for use in major corporate operations.  One day, and it is not very far away, the iPhone will seem to us and our children to be as clunky as a rotary telephone seems now, and we will wonder what the fuss was about.  The most reassuring thing about all of this is that none of this status competition of obtaining and using gadgets really matters, and by its very transitory nature it confirms for us that it doesn’t matter.    

*The first pronouncement was “globosclerosis” (a.k.a., normality).

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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