Being overwhelmed

We are inundated by the strong opinions of older generations on how the extent to which technology in engrained in our lives. It’s difficult for those not raised on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat to understand how we consume media to the point where if we are unable to get in touch with people it can feel like there is something physically wrong with us. Millennials get a lot of crap for behaving a way that they do, but part of that frustration might be misplaced. Is it fair to judge a whole generation based on the fact that more is available to for young people than there has ever been before? I challenge older generations to consider how they would have acted had all this been available because I think that would open up a lot of questions about the way people relate to each other. Maybe some of the social problems stem from the fact that human nature hasn’t really changed; it’s just manifesting itself in new ways not seen before. It’s not like until the emergence of the Facebook iPhone app people didn’t feel anxiety, stress, jealousy, loneliness, or the desire to know what their friends or significant others were up to. Now there are just different and more in depth ways of dealing with these emotions.


Xanther falls above average on the frailty/sensitivity scale, but she is still a child raised on technology who is used to being available 24/7 and connected to everyone you want to at any time of day. People that fall into the Millennial age bracket think less of the technologies available today because we have been raised on them. I don’t think I’d be too far off in saying I don’t think Xanther would directly cite social media or texting her friends as a cause for her to become agitated. Changes in media aren’t as big of a deal to us because we’re used to the market for this changing rapidly. We didn’t have meltdowns about the switch from buttons to touchscreens. We transitioned relatively smoothly from T9 word to Autocorrect. And we certainly don’t do this.



What I wanted to do in this post is relate the way young people relate to technology to the way Xanther behaved at the party at Anwar’s office. A claim that gets made pretty frequently is that the ubiquity of social media and technology in our lives is the root of a lot of anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. However I think that people are capable of these feelings without any outside factors. A lot of things can be overwhelming. Xanther is overwhelmed by there being a lot of people and conversations in the office, so she goes to the bathroom to calm down. She becomes overwhelmed by her own thoughts so she turns to social media, Parcel Thoughts, to calm down. She becomes overwhelmed by the images she sees there, so she returns to where the cause of her almost-episode began – the party. My point is that face-to-face human interaction is seen as the pinnacle of communication styles for non-Millennials, but really anything can cause stress or anxiety; it’s all about differences in people and the personal coping style of the individual.


We all have stuff that occupies our minds that we have to deal with in order to be functioning human beings. It is 100% true that some of this can be attributed to things we see online, but I don’t think that the explosion of technology as a driving force in our lives is the sole cause of the anxiety of society as a whole but more of a reconfiguration of already existing feelings and thoughts. Shallow people have always existed; Instagram didn’t create this type of people. Girlfriends and boyfriends have also had those jealous, suspicious feelings about their significant others; the ability to see someone’s best friends on Snapchat didn’t invent these feelings of doubt. I personally can get overwhelmed from anything. I don’t discriminate. And I think to cite social media and technology as the cause of social problems would be small minded. I really appreciate the way Danielewski has integrated people’s interactions with technology as a main theme of the novel because it starts rich discussions about the role technology should play which I think are necessary because I have a feeling the media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.


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4 responses to “Being overwhelmed”

  1. prestontaylorstone says :

    Reblogged this on Discussion board for Mark Z. Danielewski's THE FAMILIAR, Volume 1 and commented:

    I completely agree with you here. I think our generation gets so much flack for being so consumed with “the media” but people have always been consumed with media, it’s just that the media has changed. I wouldn’t say the relationship is completely void of bimodal distribution — I do think the access we have to each other affects our emotions. It’s not just about how the media has changed but how it has changed and how much more of it there is. I also agree that Xanther’s anxiety directly comes from these apps. It’s not borne new for her specialty.

    Really interesting point about how ultimately this novel can relate to the Millennials. Danielewski has something amazing here with this book and as far as I’m concerned, he’s changed the scene of reading. It’s about so much more now–the way something is mediated to you does in fact affect you. So, it’s interesting you brought this up. Great post!

  2. hfcaldw says :

    As I mentioned in one of my posts; Danieleswki’s books are never ending. Each time the book is read a new situation or assumption will flourish. It is definitely not text for anyone to read. In addition to, not only using a book to communicate with each other in class, we have the ability to communicate this book with other classes. Which makes it even more interesting and easy to pull MORE information out. What power is pulled from this book but also from the web!

  3. xoebien says :

    Hey, you have absolutely hit the nail on the head in your discussion about generational information and relationships to technology that this book brings up again and again.
    You talk about how human emotions have existed long before the technologies and apparatuses have been able to express them. Still, it is interesting to see the manner in which humans are coming to deal with their intuitive emotions in light of the available outlets.
    Honestly, I’m one of those people who says I hate technology, which is absolutely false and misdirected. I say it, however, to express that I get stressed out by the endless navigation of the internet and I worry about technologies’ negative impact on society. It doesn’t help that the sic-fi books from just decades ago imagined dystopian worlds that were not in fact made better by the inventions of technology, but were instead made worse (1984, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Fahrenheit 451{Oh god let’s not even talk about the possibility of burning books or I will cry} just to name a few).
    I don’t want technology to replace human connection, but I appreciate the ways in which it makes it even more accessible. I like that you said anything can cause stress or anxiety because it points to our generational phenomenal of being less adept at maneuvering social situations than scrolling through Facebook or tumblr, we can calm down our senses by having something to focus on that doesn’t require our full attention, or at least we can attend several things at one time without being considered rude for not engaging with a group or avoiding polite pleasantries to people you don’t even care to talk to.

    Anyway, I think what I’m trying to get at is that Danielewski is showing us that we can have both- we can be both dependent on in person human connection and also means of technological escape where we get to control the websites we visit and the people we connect to. In fact, there may even be a way to utilize our digitized and multitasking era to pay tribute to the faculties of communication from the past – The Familiar is a physical book with pages made out of paper made out of trees, but when we open it up, we can see computers and microchips and timelines and Orbs that we are so accustomed to encountering on the world wide web.

    In conclusion: Wonderful post, lheyman. Thank you for sharing.

  4. ki7sune says :

    I really enjoyed this post. It made me think about my attitude about the book. It also made me feel like I am about to be old, but I think I am somewhere in the middle of this issue.

    I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s before the internet. I enjoyed movies, video games, and books, but they were always part of a 1-to-1 ratio. There was one book for one story, one video tape for a movie, and one cartridge for a game (excluding series and sequels I suppose). I am young enough to have easily assimilated new technologies as they become available, but I guess old enough to be resistant to ergodic literature.

    I think there is a key point of comparison between social media/the internet and this book. With technology we are able to multitask very well. We can talk/text friends, check schedules, take pictures, look up information, and much more just on our phones. I think this can be a good thing as long as we don’t ignore everything else. However, when I want to enjoy a book, I don’t want to be distracted by all those other things. I am not the most disciplined person, and I readily utilize technology. So, if I get online to look up a definition or a translation, I risk getting side tracked and finding out that there are more than 300,000,000 capillaries in your lungs and if they were stretched out tip to tip they would reach approximately the distance between Atlanta and LA (you would also die). Wait, what were we talking about?

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