Last week at the Park Avenue Armory, I heard William Powers talk about his book, “Hamlet’s Blackberry.”
Because of his talk, I’ve stopped checking my smart phone first thing in the morning. And I love communing with my phone. A year ago, I wrote a Dear John letter to my last phone — we were forced to separate because of the IT department’s recall http://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/good-bye-old-phone/
Powers said, basically, with all our digital media we’re no longer going deep. All our connectedness is causing us to lose our solitude which is necessary for entering into a deep and meaningful life.
“As we entered the media age, the tools mattered as much as the content ..the practical benefits have become easier, but the spiritual benefits?..Does it grow your soul? as Kurt Vonnegut asked.”
Powers asked, “Does the digital media help us become the person we were meant to be? I don’t want to live in a world that’s as busy as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.”
As Powers was talking, I was taking notes on my smart phone. I was sitting in the front and worried he noticed me thumbing on my phone. I felt guilty, hoping he didn’t think I was texting or goofing off while he was talking. No, I use my phone to take notes. I hope Powers would approve. He’s no Luddite. He seems to appreciate the gifts of technology. But he just kept asking whether social media’s overuse is interfering with our ability to create a good life. And it’s worth talking (or blogging) about.
He noted that when he and his wife and son were going to have family time, a syndrome, “the vanishing family trick,” developed. People peeled off to check their computers. Rather than gaining family time, because of their connected life, they were losing it. Their thoughts and time together skated the surface.
But the family emerged from their digital fog by creating an internet sabbbath. Over the weekends, the Powers family no longer permit themselves to use social media. They allow themselves to use their cell phones which are not smart phones. They can work on the computer, just not the internet. If they desperately need the internet, they can go to their local library. They have regained eye contact, the art of conversation, and the gap time necessary to grow their souls.
So the next night at dinner, I talked to my kids about the internet sabbath idea (and the problem of Xbox overuse!).
How can we cut down on our social media? How can we be together without screens? The conversation is ongoing. We decided when we are away from the city, we can really be away from social media too. And on weekends, we too can try a morning or day of sabbath. It is worth a try.