Striking the Right Balance

It’s hard to find the right balance when bringing technology into our lives.  I do think lots of us suffer from some form of internet / social media addiction, and it’s getting easier and easier every day to bring all of that with us everywhere we go. This will only continue to accelerate (and I don’t even have Google Glass yet).

A few weeks ago, I went to a discussion at the New York Public Library for Steven Johnson’s new book — for the event, Steven’s “debate” opponent was Sherry Turkle, author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other“. The thesis of Sherry’s book is essentially that we are all addicted to our phones, and that we’re trading away our real-world connections for distant digital connections.  She has spent countless hours interviewing teenagers, observing moms and dads in the playground (with their faces stuffed into their iphones, of course), etc.  And basically came away with some troubling, if unsurprising, results.

I am not terrified by all this, but I do think we’re at a moment now where we are still forming our cultural norms around all of this, and it will take a while.

For instance, Frannie and I have a rule of no screens in bed (that includes TV) — it just seems like the bedroom should be a place to unplug, slow down, and relax.  But over the past few days while she’s been away, I’ve been breaking the rule.  On Sunday night, I blew through my email backlog on my laptop (woo!), and on Monday night I followed #Sandy via Twitter on my phone.

Of course, this sparked an argument discussion last night when I continued to break our rule by bringing my laptop to bed to write “one last email”.  To make matters worse (better?) I posted a snap poll to twitter to see what people thought about this particular nuance of digital culture. The results were mixed:

http://storify.com/nickgrossman/laptops-in-bed.js[View the story “Laptops in Bed?” on Storify]

Some great gems in there.

I do think that thinking about this in terms of addiction seems about right — we have this thing with really powerful social pulls drawing us in, and we need to make sure we understand how to live in moderation. I might even argue that the addictive strength of the internet and social media is stronger than that of alcohol or other drugs; at least the social aspect of that addiction. i.e., I may feel some social pressure to drink more than I should, but it’s not coming at me 24×7 from hundreds of friends, thousands of acquaintances, and millions of others.

So, this is something we’ll have to keep figuring out.

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