Maybe it would be healthier to have a little more distance between ourselves and our gadgets.
Below are excerpts from an article at The Atlantic. The full article may be read here.
The Myth of the Disconnected Life
A commercial that aired throughout 2011 for the Windows phone resonated with these concerns around when it is or isn't appropriate to use our phones. It shows people ignoring their children by staring at their phones; a woman getting married walks down the aisle while texting; joggers staring at their phones run into each other; people fall down stairs or sit in seats already occupied by someone else. All this mayhem is caused because people cannot look away from their phones. The commercial's tagline is an appeal to these cellphone users: "Be Here Now."
The call to disconnect was found in several best sellers of 2011 from Sherry Turkle's Alone Together to William Powers' Hamlet's Blackberry. Powers has since become emblematic of a movement called the "Digital Sabbath." Each Friday night, he and his family disconnect their computers from the internet for the weekend as a means to curb an ever-growing sense of information overload.
For Powers, who began these Digital Sabbaths while writing his book, the sense of "digital busyness" that comes with information overload typically leads to a lack of depth in the ways that we think and connect with each other.
When his family announced that they would be sacrificing internet connectivity for 48 hours every week, they received some angry responses from colleagues who were upset that they would be unreachable by email. However, for Powers, the cost of disconnecting was rewarded with deeper and more meaningful connections with his family.
Since the publication of Hamlet's Blackberry, many people have followed suit and dedicated time during the week in which they turn off, unplug and walk away from their mobile phones, email and Facebook accounts.
For advocates of the Digital Sabbath, the cellphone is the perfect symbol of the always-on lifestyle that leads to disconnection and distraction. It epitomizes the information overload that accompanies being tethered to digital media. Advocates of Digital Sabbaths note that if you are nose-deep in your smartphone, you are not connecting with the people and places around you in a meaningful way.
Ultimately, the Digital Sabbath is a way to fix lifestyles that have prioritized disconnection and distraction and seeks to replace these skewed priorities with sustained attention on the tangible relationships with those around us.
Yet, these are familiar arguments that have taken one form or another throughout the history of media. Plato argued that writing would disconnect us from the meaningful presence that comes with face-to-face interactions. The spreading of ideas across geographic distances - far beyond the body of the author - limited our ability to engage in meaningful dialogue and produce true knowledge.
Advocates of the Digital Sabbath have the opportunity to put forth an important message about practices that can transform the pace of everyday life, practices that can offer new perspectives on things taken for granted as well as offering people insights on the social norms that are often disrupted by the intrusion of mobile devices. We absolutely need breaks and distance from our routines to gain a new points of view and hopefully understand why it might come as a shock to your partner when you answer a work call at the dinner table. Yet, by conflating mobile media with a lack of meaningful connection and a distracted mind, they do a disservice to the wide range of ways we use our devices, many of which develop deep and meaningful relationships to the spaces we move through and the people we connect with.