A few weeks ago, my husband and I heard New York Times bestselling author William Powers discuss his book, “Hamlet’s Blackberry”. While we both share a strong interest in technology and how it is affecting lives today, we approach it from very different vantage points. My husband works in a technology-intense industry, while I spend my days doing therapy with people behind a closed door; no phones ringing, no text messages interrupting, and no computer screens exposed. Many times I hear from my patients how rare an experience it is today to have such focused and personal time, free of interruptions.
Several years ago, when my husband finished setting up our first desk top computer, he said; “Look Barbara, we’re on the information super highway”. My immediate response was; “Where’s the first rest stop?”. While I have come a long way in integrating technology into my daily life, our differences are still evident. This was highlighted by how we decided to read Mr. Powers’ book. On a recent flight, I was reading my copy of the book in hard copy, madly underlining and turning down pages, while Dan was reading it on his iPad.
One of the important messages from the book is that technological advances are really just another piece of historical development. I think it is powerful to view technology and its role in our lives with this grounded, philosophical perspective. The challenge we all face with the ubiquitous presence of technology, is how best to take control of it and weave it into well balanced, grounded lives for ourselves and our children. Achieving balance between the ever increasing demands of a 24/7 world driven by layers of open windows on our screens, and the freedom to think freely and to enjoy the true beauty of face to face connection, is the goal.
In his book, Powers describes the approach his family has taken by creating the “Internet Sabbath”; turning off all digital “screens” from Saturday morning until Monday morning. While this may not be realistic for everyone, or even initially of interest, my husband and I have agreed to test out an approach where we mutually agree to “Screen Hours” and time that is “Screen Free”.
Hamlet’s Blackberry is one of the most powerful books I have read in a very long time. Whether you choose to read it in print or on your e-reader, please read it and think long and hard about its messages. We need to model deliberate behavior and take charge.
Technology is an amazing tool, but “screen time” affects not only relationships but our brain’s ability to have space and time for creatively consolidating thought. Now that I’ve finished writing this, I am going to shut down my screen and enjoy the absolute beauty of the snowy Montana mountains, some country music, and my husband.