The world is too much with us, late and soon, / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: / Little we see in Nature that is ours; / We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
—William Wordsworth, 1807
Surely you've noticed that for a few moments after you tweet, you feel a tad empty inside? Like when your blood sugar has taken a dive, or maybe like a half-hour after you tried to make a whole meal out of a sushi appetizer?
Same with when you enter something on your Facebook page or even when you tack a video of yourself up on YouTube: a gap opens, a disconnect, somewhere in the vicinity of your gut, between the level of satisfaction you expected to feel by virtue of having exposed an aspect of yourself for all to know and the level of satisfaction you actually feel. In simpler terms, you might compare it to the momentary breathless panic you get when you step in a hole you didn't see coming. Ooooph!
So have you felt it? ... the queasy sensation that by pasting a piece of your persona to an electronic impulse and zipping it into a fiber optic ether, you've lost more than you can ever recover? Then listen, you may want to pay attention to a major study recently conducted by a major university situated somewhere in a major metropolitan area in one of our more major countries. There is now an official recognition for what you have been experiencing, what with all that Twittering, MySpaceing, Facebooking, YouTubeing, posting, blogging and chat rooming you've been up to. A major team of highly respected doctors, researchers, philosophers, ethicists, mystics (Eastern and Western), psychiatrists and electromagnetic theoreticians have given to this syndrome the appellation Social-Networking Actuated Anima Depletion, and what it boils down to is that every time you put yourself out there, online, and let the universe in on what's happening in your head, another piece of your soul is ripped from the original (and limited) allotment and sucked into the maw of what we call "virtual space."
You're not getting it back, either. It's gone for good. It's like when you're standing at the toilet while eating the best aged cheddar cheese you've ever had, and a big chunk crumbles off and drops into the bowl. There's nothing you can do about it, is there? You can kiss that cheese good-bye. And so it is with your missing scrap of soul when it tumbles into the Internet. Bye bye, soul.
Long has it been known that almost everyone is born with a soul. Clearly, some people aren't. (For illustration of that reality, all we need do is flip to Fox and stare into the black eyes of Gretchen Carlson for a few seconds.) But for the most part, we are surrounded by beings identifiable as human by their souls, if nothing else.
What is now being discovered is that these souls of ours are more like teeth or livers than hair or fingernails. When we lose some or all of it, it doesn't grow back. Say, for instance, you sell your soul to the Devil with the idea you'll be rich or beautiful or a legendary blues guitarist, don't be thinking you can wait a few weeks for a new one to sprout up. A soul is a one-per-lifetime arrangement. It's like your appendix, only it is thought to have some purpose in our lives.
Yet there are those who cannot resist baring theirs at every opportunity. I'm certain you've known your share. They are especially prevalent within the teenage population, as well as among recent divorcees, chronic drunks, women talk show hosts and poets. And as you probably know, when they are in a soul-baring mood, they are hard to get away from. (I once had a divorced poet show up at my home with a jug of wine under each arm, and before it was over, I seriously considered faking a heart attack jut to get away.)
Before the Internet erupted from the Bowels of Hell, these people would feed their need to expound upon the human condition--particularly theirs--using such anachronia as land-line telephones, long loopy hand-written letters, and unannounced visits. It was easier on all of us back then. We didn't have to pick up the phone if we didn't want to, we could always skip to the end of a letter, and when the door bell rang, we could hide behind the drapes.
Alas, those days are over. The Internet has created the ideal environment in which these people can thrive and multiply. No longer do they have to wait until someone has time and stomach to listen to them. No longer do they have to be distracted by actual, two-sided communication.
But certainly, they will cut back--maybe even quit--once they have learned of SNAAD. How could they risk the partial or total depletion of their very essence--that fragile patina that sets us apart from each other--just to let a few thousand strangers know how much they adore Lady Gaga, or what they found on the rack at Old Navy, or what they have to say about what Sarah Palin said about what Glenn Beck said about something President Barack Obama said?
Don't count on it. The only way to know our soul is in peril is to have a healthy, complete one to pass on the message. It's like the diagnostic computer on a modern automobile; when it goes down, what's left to tell you about it? And I am afraid far too many of our fellow humans have already sacrificed too much of theirs to this insatiable hunger, this bottomless need to be noticed. Their digital presence shrieks "Look at me!"--and there is less and less to see.