These days as I walk across the opulent lawns of the private, liberal arts college where I teach, most students passing by have a cell phone, seemingly glued to one ear. They are so deeply engaged in their conversations that they barely notice anyone around them, and they are startled when I call out a greeting. Often, it seems from the words I overhear, those conversations concern plans to meet a friend for lunch, for a study date, or to go for a run. But at least as often, it seems from the words wafting in the wind, these are con
versations with “mom” or “dad.” How did it happen, I wonder, that college students became so willing to talk with their parents that they would call— or answer calls—en route to classes and the gym? This certainly wasn’t the case for the members of my generation, who dutifully made a call but once a week, and whose parents rarely, if ever, called us. Unraveling this mysterious new behavior—and the mysteries surrounding other forms of connection, as well as those of constraint and surveillance, found within the milieu in which my elite students were hatched—is what this book is about.