The way we are

Wired man

This is an old NY Times article (ancient, in Internet time) but I think it does a scary job of describing many of us super-connected,

multitasking “speed demons:”

These speed demons say they will fall behind if they disconnect, but they also acknowledge feeling something much more powerful: they are compulsively drawn to the constant stimulation provided by incoming data. Call it O.C.D. — online compulsive disorder.


Pseudo-ADD: They become frustrated with long-term projects, thrive on the stress of constant fixes of information, and physically crave the bursts of stimulation from checking e-mail or voice mail or answering the phone.


”It’s like a dopamine squirt to be connected,” said Dr. Ratey, who compares the sensations created by constantly being wired to those of narcotics — a hit of pleasure, stimulation and escape. ”It takes the same pathway as our drugs of abuse and pleasure.”


”It’s an addiction,” he said, adding that some people cannot deal with down time or quiet moments. ”Without it, we are in withdrawal.”

”Ten years ago, you had to be in the office 12 hours,” said Mr. Mehlman, who said he now spent 10 hours a day at work, giving him more time with his wife and three children, while also making use of his wireless-enabled laptop, BlackBerry and mobile phone.

Do you see the irony? He doesn’t work 12 hours, he works “only” 10, that’s so much more time with his family!

On playing with his son (dogfight with Lego airplanes):

Both love the game, and it has an added benefit for Dad: he can play with one hand while using the other to talk on the phone or check e-mail. […] ”While he rebuilds his plane, I check my e-mail on the BlackBerry,” Mr. Mehlman explained.

Children want and need their parents’ full & undivided attention. I feel so sad for this kid.

But honestly, does this article describe you? I know it does me. I have the urge to check email and twitter at every stop light. I get bored and need some input during that “down time.”

How do you manage your attention? Do you ever give the most precious gift – your full and undivided attention to something or someone? Care to share?

When I teach my students social media, am I contributing to creating an addiction?  Do I also have the responsibility to teach them how to manage their attention? How do I do that? How do you do that?

[image credit: Wired Man, by flickr user Mike Licht,]

[Update, 12:33 pm: Should have mentioned that This NYT article was referred to in a Zencast podcast, podcast #170 on Learning to Listen deeply. Also on iTunes.]

3 thoughts on “The way we are”

  1. I was just discussing this in my Interpersonal Communication class this week. Even though I am constantly with my cell phone or checking my e-mail, I feel as though people are too consumed with the fast paced world of technology. When is the last time you were in your car or walking to class and you were not on your cell phone? Or, when was the last time you were having coffee with a friend, and you did not hear the incessant ringing of a BlackBerry? Are we moving to fast; are we replacing people with technology?

    Another thing we discussed in my Interpersonal Class was the pros and cons of computer-mediated communication (CMC). Sure, there are pros, such as fast communication, convenient, network capability, etc. But, what about the cons? You lose face-to-face interaction and verbal and nonverbal cues are completely left out. Not to mention, that miscommunication and misunderstandings become extremely prevalent! What do you think?

  2. Finally, somebody is drawing attention to the negative aspects of modern day technology. Yes, technology and blogging, twittering, emailing, etc. are all very convenient and beneficial, but should we really live our lives around it? I think not. I I too am guilty in getting caught up in technology, but it is very important to be knowledgable about the modern day way of life and communication, but there is no reason to make a lifestyle out of it. The world has gone around for all this time with no such thing as the internet, and everything has worked out ok (for the most part), so why change now? I think it is important for everyone to realize what the most important things in life are. There are some times when checking you BlackBerry should be put on the back burner…think about it…

    Thanks Dr. V. for posting this article on your blog!

  3. I’m am SO guilty of this! I’m trying to set limits for myself (i.e. leaving my Blackberry downstairs for the night when I go up to bed, so I’m not constantly checking e-mail; having Blackberry-free zones, etc.).

    But I’ll admit to checking Twitter frequently, checking e-mails when I should be playing with my son or having a conversation with my husband.

    Part of it is my personality, but part of it is just habit. I’ve always liked being ‘in the know’ and in this world of 24/7 news, it’s easy to be sucked in to the constant stream of headlines and new tweets.

    Thanks for sharing this article, Mihaela. It’s always good to get a reality check in every once in a while to remind us when we need to disconnect and focus our attentions on the other important passions in our lives. On that note, I’m signing off to go outside and enjoy this Saturday with my family.

Comments are closed.