Amazingly enough, tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of the start of Rough Type’s Realtime Chronicles. Time flies, and realtime flies like a bat out of hell.
Since I began writing the series, I have received innumerable emails and texts from panicked parents worried that they may be failing in what has become the central challenge of modern parenting: ensuring that children grow up to be well adapted to the realtime environment. These parents are concerned – and rightly so – that their kids will be at a disadvantage in the realtime milieu in which we all increasingly live, work, love, and compete for the small bits of attention that, in the aggregate, define the success, or failure, of our days. If maladapted to realtime existence, these parents understand, their progeny will end up socially ostracized, with few friends and even fewer followers. “Can we even be said to be alive,” one agitated young mother wrote me, “if our status updates go unread?” The answer, of course, is no. In the realtime environment, the absence of interactive stimuli, even for brief periods of “time,” may result in a state of reflective passivity indistinguishable from nonexistence. On a more practical level, a lack of realtime skills is sure to constrain a young person’s long-term job prospects. At best, he or she will be fated to spend his or her days involved in some form of manual labor, possibly even working out of doors with severely limited access to screens. At worst, he or she will have to find a non-tenure-track position in academia.