While the pandemic seems to be the backdrop for everything happening currently, the foreground is dominated by being online and nearly constant telepresence either for school, work or for home. It is leading to feelings of overexposure and inability to find some privacy.
Last week, I had a recurring thought about a bookstore in the U.K., browsing the philosophy section, where I would find Routledge black-bound volumes.
I discussed the thought with my wife. Why was it recurring? Was it because this was not accessible to me during the pandemic? Was it just nostalgia? Was it just that I miss bookstores?
We put the last one to a test and called our sitter, who came for a couple of hours to watch the boys, and we headed into town to Garcia Street Books. After using the hand sanitizer at the door, we went in and did what we usually do — followed the lines of books and sought out books that would speak to us.
In the past, I would spend time in the science and philosophy sections. But this day, one book specifically resonated — How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency by Akiko Busch. It resonated because I have been feeling overexposed — promoting our three businesses, constantly selling, putting myself out there.
Just before the public health crisis, I took myself off personal social media, being done with feeling the need to share every detail of my life, and have since tried to find a happy balance of connection versus privacy.
That said, at home we are all online all the time. Work, school and home life are intermingled — meetings with staff and colleagues and customers and teachers. The boys are settling into the online routines with classes and teachers, and the eldest son is on Discord with local friends, filling the time he is not in school with video calls.
Perhaps this is the realization of the ideal of digital presence when physical presence is not possible, but the constancy of it is wearing. The last few nights, I have turned off the laptop and cellphone in an effort to not be present and accessible to all, to disconnect and hide for a bit, perhaps let another thought occur, like the one about the bookstore.
I don’t think I can disappear, not in many of the ways Busch describes, no matter how overexposed I feel.
For business, there always has to be a presentable front: It is inescapable.
This week there will be more exposure as we receive an award for entrepreneurship from the Small Business Administration for SciVista, our data visualization company. Last week, we concluded an accelerator for Compact Fusion Systems run by the Arrowhead Center and will be conducting the remaining 10 or so customer discovery interviews.
And I am answering the phone all day and answering emails for Woodruff Scientific customers.
While I might feel like I would like to hide, perhaps it will be in plain sight for the time being.