Distraction & Consumerism in M. T. Anderson’s Feed
The beginning section of Feed by M.T. Anderson depicts a bleak future where individuals are continually connected to the Internet through the “feed” in their heads. Following the story of Titus and his other teenage friends, Anderson’s society offers no escape from consumerism and endless distractions due to the use of new technology.
The most alarming aspect of this future society to me is the idea of never being alone or able to get away from noise or distractions. With the Internet always immediately available, it is impossible to be silent or to stop thinking. It is unsurprising then that the teenagers find everything in the real world that are not filled with constant distractions to be “null” or boring. This aspect becomes especially apparent in their lack of appreciation or fascination at visiting other planets, an unimaginable experience for the average person today. When asked by Violet, Titus gives a typical teenage response, describing the entire planet of Mars as “dumb” and the moon “sucks”.
Titus’s thoughts throughout the first part of the book are mostly shallow. The social effects of the feed may be best exemplified by his thinking, “The thing I hate about space if that you can feel how old and empty it is…You need the noise of your friends, in space.” Instead of contemplating or wondering about the mysteries of space, he hates the “old” quality about it, as if only new things have value. His thought reveals an acute discomfort with silence and stillness. Once the group arrives to the moon, Titus cannot hear his friends or even truly enjoy the experience due to the distractions of his feed. The feed does not allow for any real reflection, which is perhaps why the teenagers are constantly looking to be distracted from the discomfort of silence or boredom. This agitation seems to be a magnified version of the restlessness existing in modern society due to consumerism and technology.
The feed also fosters an exaggerated version of today’s consumerism. By providing endless promotional information about products, it is difficult to ignore it and the desire to buy more things. For example, when Titus and his friends are looking for something to do, they buy items from a shop that, upon leaving, they immediately consider “null” and useless. Rather than truly enjoying the company of each other, the group is always looking for the next exciting diversion. In this future society, what you buy defines you and how much fun you are having.
M. T. Anderson’s feed can be interpreted as an example of remediation, as described by Bolter and Grusin, since it provides a new media form to use the Internet. It uses the strategy of “transparency” by becoming a physical part of their head, so that it seems to disappear for the user and becomes ingrained in their daily life. Although it may implicitly claim to be an improvement to the Internet, the behavior of Titus and his friends hint at its harmful social effects.