I don't know if it's just my heightened awareness since releasing my latest book, A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation, or if the world is also catching on, but it seems as if more and more people are talking about the need for restorative breaks. In the following article from the New York Times, even the executives responsible for producing and advancing the consuming technologies of our time are starting to ask the tough questions.
Silicon Valley Says Step Away from the Device:
Tech firms are uneasy over the effect time online has on relationships.
By MATT RICHTEL
Published: July 23, 2012
Stuart Crabb, a director in the executive offices of Facebook, naturally likes to extol the extraordinary benefits of computers and smartphones. But like a growing number of technology leaders, he offers a warning: log off once in a while, and put them down.
Soren Gordhamer is the organizer of Wisdom 2.0, an annual conference about the pursuit of balance in the digital age.
In a place where technology is seen as an all-powerful answer, it is increasingly being seen as too powerful, even addictive.
The concern, voiced in conferences and in recent interviews with many top executives of technology companies, is that the lure of constant stimulation — the pervasive demand of pings, rings and updates — is creating a profound physical craving that can hurt productivity and personal interactions.
“If you put a frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat, it’ll boil to death — it’s a nice analogy,” said Mr. Crabb, who oversees learning and development at Facebook. People “need to notice the effect that time online has on your performance and relationships.”
The insight may not sound revelatory to anyone who has joked about the “crackberry” lifestyle or followed the work of researchers who are exploring whether interactive technology has addictive properties.
But hearing it from leaders at many of Silicon Valley’s most influential companies, who profit from people spending more time online, can sound like auto executives selling muscle cars while warning about the dangers of fast acceleration.
“We’re done with this honeymoon phase and now we’re in this phase that says, ‘Wow, what have we done?’ ” said Soren Gordhamer, who organizes Wisdom 2.0, an annual conference he started in 2010 about the pursuit of balance in the digital age. “It doesn’t mean what we’ve done is bad. There’s no blame. But there is a turning of the page.”
At the Wisdom 2.0 conference in February, founders from Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Zynga and PayPal, and executives and managers from companies like Google, Microsoft, Cisco and others listened to or participated in conversations with experts in yoga and mindfulness. In at least one session, they debated whether technology firms had a responsibility to consider their collective power to lure consumers to games or activities that waste time or distract them.
The actual science of whether such games and apps are addictive is embryonic. But the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, widely viewed as the authority on mental illnesses, plans next year to include “Internet use disorder” in its appendix, an indication researchers believe something is going on but that requires further study to be deemed an official condition.
(For the rest of the article, click here).
What do you think?
Are people too connected to their electronic devices?
What impact, if any, do you think this is having on our society?
What have we gained?
What have we lost?