I just wrapped up my TV segment on Seattle KING5’s “New Day Northwest” (“Going on a gadget diet“), a couple of days after my first day of rest from digital media.
I’m not even sure what to call it. It’s not even a rest from all digital media: I’ll still carry a basic phone for emergencies, watch a DVD, listen to music. More like, it’s an attempt to put the outside world at bay, for at least 24 hours. I think there’s a reason why the world’s principle monotheistic faiths (there I go, reverting into my mideast TV journo talk) reserve a day for contemplation and respite from the daily grind. It’s a hope that by disconnecting from the profane, we may connect with something potentially more profound.
Such as family. As we await the birth of our son, I’m reminded of the preciousness of time and focus when we are so starved for both. We didn’t get a chance to play this video during the TV segment, but it says so much about the ubiquitousness of technology and a younger generation’s facility with it (I also didn’t mention that my daughter Rose recently asked me to set aside my newspaper at the breakfast table, “Papa talk only to Rosie!”):
During my own “Off The Grid Saturdays” I finished reading Hamlet’s BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age by Wiliam Powers. In it, he speaks of “the Vanishing Family Trick” — of his family enjoying each other in the same room, then one after the other excuses themselves and never returns — lost to their screens.
“As I watched the Vanishing Family Trick unfold and played my own part in it, I sometimes felt as if love itself, or the acts of heart and mind that constitute love, were being leached out of the house by our screens.”
I can tell his issue is hitting critical mass by the number of people writing about it, including one of my former students, Scott Loughran in his new blog, Unplugged Sundays. And you know things are serious when a guy who makes his living off of our online activities says this (as quoted from Hamlet’s Blackberry):
“Turn off your computer. You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us. Nothing beats holding the hand of your grandchild as he walks his first steps.” [Eric Schmidt, CEO Google]