One night in early July, Alexis Madrigal woke from a troubled night of sleep. His cat had been attacking his feet under the covers and he had to get up early the next morning for a conference call. He was worried and anxious. Looking for a hit of dopamine, Madrigal reached next to his bed and grabbed his omnipresent iPhone. Pulling the phone close to his eyes, right next to his frontal cortex, he peered through the darkness at his screen, his fingers nearly autonomously finding the little icon for Twitter, which had come to represent his social world.
There they were: his drug of choice, the friendly avatars of his life. Flicking backwards and forwards in time and jumping all over the globe almost as if he were on LSD, he favorited articles to read the next morning and soon, he was calm and tired and went back to sleep.
But imagine him lying there in the dark, face illuminated by a screen, scanning his Twitter feed for something to soothe his nerves, which connected to his brain, which had been rewired by a life on the Internet.
Alexis Madrigal is having a Jonathan Swift moment today.