In 1996—11 years before the iPhone—David Foster Wallace predicted FaceTime, Zoom fatigue, and the rise of audio platforms like Clubhouse and Discord.

Here's how 👇
In his 1996 book Infinite Jest, Wallace forecasts a technology called the "video phone". Keep in mind, this is before cell phones go mainstream.

With the new technology, people shift from audio calls to video calls, which sound a lot like today's FaceTime and Zoom meetings.
It turns out, people really hate the video meetings.

They feel like they always have to look good and be "on". It's exhausting. Sound familiar?

This is Zoom fatigue, 15 years before Zoom will even be founded.
It also turns out that people are vain (surprise!) & spend their meetings staring at themselves. Wallace writes:

"This appearance-check was no more resistible than a mirror. The experience was universally horrifying. People were horrified at how their faces appeared on-screen."
From the book:

"The videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn’t."
Soon, corporations start profiting by selling "digital masks" that airbrush wrinkles, whiten teeth, and erase eye bags. Kind of like Facetune or Zoom's "Touch up" feature.

People become *so* reliant on the masks that they start refusing to meet people in real life, sans mask.
Eventually, people are so fed up with video meetings that the makers of the "video phone" create an audio-only product.

It's similar to a modern podcast, Clubhouse room, Discord voice channel, or, yup, a regular old phone call.
Wallace explains:

"Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her."
"This bilateral illusion of unilateral attention was gratifying from an emotional standpoint: you got to believe you were receiving somebody’s complete attention without having to return it."

That's the thing about audio: it lowers the stakes.
Wallace nailed why audio > video:

"Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener’s expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges."
With audio, we get to multi-task, pay only half attention, imagine whatever we want about what's happening on the other end.

We can wear pajamas and have bad lighting and go make-up free.
In the book, people rejoice when audio again becomes the default. They feel free, unburdened by endless video calls. Wallace writes:

“Callers of course found that they were once again stresslessly invisible, unvainly makeup- and toupee-less and baggy-eyed…once again free.”
25 years ago, Wallace forecasted the rise of the smartphone & video conferencing & the resulting exhaustion. He understood human nature.

This is what we're seeing now: a resurgence of audio after a year of pandemic-fueled Zoom fatigue.

Audio is back! 👂👂👂
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