Recently I received a comment from Alison Dennehy on a post I had written about my Blackberry Addiction. She was doing research on “the re-location of the temporal, spatial and psychological boundaries between work and non-work caused by smart mobile technologies such as the Blackberry“.
In other words, how do these devices affect our life/work balance?
Intrigued, I volunteered to further her research by blogging once again about this topic, and asking my readers to add their comments about it on the post (please do, by the way).
As fate would have it, on the day I was going to write this post I read an article by Ben Stein in the NY Times entitled “Connected, Yes, But Hermetically Sealed”. It was Ben’s take on the breakdown of those boundaries Alison spoke of.
It was a lament about how our devices have become “modern-day balls and chains with which we shackle ourselves“. He sums up his feelings this way:
“The cellphone and the PDA have basically replaced thought”
Danger Will Robinson! When I read that I immediately heard that warning in my head (courtesy of the robot B-9 in the classic TV series “Lost in Space” – yes, I am a child of the 60s).
There is indeed a clear danger here, and lines that can be crossed, whereby the new gadgets of our digital world could fundamentally change how humanity evolves. For the worse.
Is that hyperbole? I think not.
While I’m certainly not yet at the point where I would make the came kind of declaration as Ben Stein and say my Blackberry does all of my thinking (although some folks may say that about me), I can envision a world in the not-too-distant future where:
- Our legs are not as strong because we made too much of a habit of e-mailing or texting someone 10 feet away.
- Our eyes aren’t as powerful looking beyond two feet in front of us since we spent too much time looking at our computers and devices.
- Our ears are only conditioned to optimally hear sounds that are either delivered right into the sides of our ears, or through earplugs.
- Our sense of smell is greatly diminished because we increasingly didn’t take the time to literally smell the roses, and because our computers and devices don’t have a smell (now that would be an interesting product, wouldn’t it – “Computer Scent”).
- Our taste buds grow smaller and less sensitive because of our habits of working all of our devices and eating at the same time, thus diverting our attention from savoring our meals.
- Our language skills decline because the art of human conversation nearly disappears, in favor of shorthand IMing (or truncating to 140 characters) virtually all communications.
- Our brain capacity diminishes because our digital technology does too much of our thinking for us (think math, think spelling, etc).
Yep, this all could happen to humans if we overdo this stuff. The human species has constantly adapted and changed depending on its surrounding environment and needs for survival. Our current edition is no different.
We must be careful. We must heed the danger. We need to draw our lines in the sand as to what’s a proper balance of “plugged” and “unplugged”.
So, balance your e-mailing with lots of personal conversation. Take a break from Twittering, walk outside and take in the wonderful details of a forest, or a mountainside, or a lake shore. Pull out the iPod earplugs and listen to the sweet sounds of birds. Step into a garden, or into a bakery at 7AM, and inhale – deeply. Go to a restaurant and turn off all of your devices, order your favorite meal, and savor every bite. Handwrite a two-page letter to a friend you haven’t contacted in years. Do a little math in your head every now and then.
Do it all for the sake of humanity. Really.
Help me get those robot images out of my head.
(And oh yes, do it for our own sanity and happiness as well)
Quick, what’s 36 times 82? No cheating. In your head. Without rubbing your head. 🙂
And don’t forget to add your thoughts for Allison, on your take regarding this life/work balance, in the comments or in a separate post. Thanks!
A quick postscript for my friend Joanna Young, who recently restarted her great website Confident Writing. Please go over there and welcome her back – and soak in her great writing, excellent advice and witty warmth. Well done Joanna!