When I was a kid at summer camp, a letter was as precious as gold (or perhaps candy). If you got five letters in a week, you were rich. Most of the time, we stood by the mailroom, plaintively waiting to see if there was some sort of message from the outside world–only to walk away disappointed.
Back home, missing a TV show was out of the question. If you didn’t see this episode of Mannix or Batman, it was likely you’d never get a chance, ever again.
And so we came to treat incoming data as precious. A lost email was a calamity. Reading everything in your RSS feed was essential. What if I miss something?
A new generation, one that grew up with a data surplus, is coming along. To this cohort, it’s no big deal to miss a tweet or ten, to delete a blog from your reader or to not return a text or even a voice mail. The new standard for a vacation email is, “When I get back, I’m going to delete all the email in my box, so if it’s important, please re-send it next week.”
This is what always happens when something goes from scarce to surplus. First we bathe in it, then we waste it.