On the Nature of our Always-Connected Digital Lives. (Or: Is It Strange That It Took Me a Couple of Hours to Hear the Wilonsky News?)

Something’s been rattling around in my head since yesterday. I’m in a sharing mood. Plus, you’ll have an opportunity here to make fun of me. So:

Monday night, at 9:57, I was at home doing domestic things, watching TV, drinking wine, etc. My father, who lives out of the country, was in town. We’d spent the day with my 6-year-old daughter playing miniature golf and goofing off. My wife, staring at at text message that night, said, “[Name redacted] says Robert Wilonsky has left the Observer for a job at the Morning News.” I know it was 9:57, because that’s when my phone tells me I sent a text to Robert: “Rumor: you are going to DMN. Insane. But have to ask. True or no?”

Robert responded with a cryptic text about the Replacements and a reference to the “8-year-old that lives in his house.” I made the wanking motion and forgot about it …

The forgoing graph was written by Zac when I stepped away from my computer for a bit before I’d finished this post. No, what happened was, after a couple of confusing messages back and forth, Robert called me. He was nonplussed. Because, as you no doubt know, the news of his job jump broke more than nine hours before I texted him. Even on our own blog, Zac had already dissected the move. I was so far behind the news that Robert thought I was teasing him. “Sorry,” I told him, “but I’ve got family in town. For the past 36 hours, I haven’t looked at Twitter or checked email.” He replied, “So you’re telling me you have a life. That must be nice.”

That’s the way I saw it, too. I only see my father a couple times a year. So I put the screens away, gave him my undivided attention, and rode my kids extra hard so Dad wouldn’t think his grandchildren are undisciplined guttersnipes.

But I’m here to tell you: that’s not the way my coworkers saw it. Yesterday when I told them this story, they got the dogpile going. After saying something like, “Dude, you’re the editor of a city magazine,” Zac pointed out that his 7-year-old son had heard the news from his own sources before I did. Wick told me that he’d already heard from a friend in Chicago about the news before I learned it. They couldn’t fathom that it took nine hours for me to find out that the head guy of a blog for an alternative newsweekly had quit to become an assistant digital managing editor for the daily newspaper across town. Somehow I had failed. The implication, I think, was that if I were any good at my job, it would be impossible for me to become that unplugged.

I’m ambivalent. I’m proud that I’m not as addicted to my phone as Zac is. (Honestly, it’s something I struggle with, putting down the phone, not incessantly checking Twitter and Instagram, approving comments on this blog.) But I was also embarrassed. Because, yeah, why the hell didn’t anyone tell me?

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