90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Pico Iyer On Unplugging

Enough with the “always on” digital world. Pico Iyer is unplugging. He’s with us.

Author Pico Iyer. (AP)

Author Pico Iyer. (AP)

We text, we tweet, we carry cell phones like they’re life lines. We check our e-mails, our Facebook pages, our online status six different ways.  And then we start again.  We’ve known for a while now that the digital world – great as it is – could be addictive.  Overwhelming.  An obsession.  A leash.  A prison.

Some people are breaking out.  Letting go.  Staying off.  Travel writer Pico Iyer is one.  He moved cell-phone-free to the boondocks of Japan for a reason.  Better to go slow, go quietly, go off the digital grid.

This hour, On Point:  Pico Iyer, and walking away from the “always on” digital world.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Pico Iyer, and essayist and novelist. His most recent book is The Man Within My Head.

Mizuko Ito, Research Director for the Digital Media and Learning Hub and Professor of Anthropology and Informatics at the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

From Tom’s Reading List

Pico Iyer on “The Joy of Quiet” in The New York Times “In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight. ”

Pico Iyer’s piece on writing in the digital age from The Los Angeles Times “‘Your sentences are so long,’ said a friend who teaches English at a local college, and I could tell she didn’t quite mean it as a compliment. The copy editor who painstakingly went through my most recent book often put yellow dashes on-screen around my multiplying clauses, to ask if I didn’t want to break up my sentences or put less material in every one. ”

Salon “Friday before the 4th of July, my friend Sara and I walked to the local pool, talking about work stress, anxiety, difficulty relaxing. We were both struck by how lately, after 15 years of full-time work, we were so unreasonably tired. Why now, we wondered, when we have more experience and self-assurance, when we are amply compensated for our labor at comparatively cushy white-collar jobs, do we feel more spent than when we were strapped entry-level drones, running our tails off to please insatiable bosses?”

Playlist

“Follow Me (Twitter Song)” by Sean Kingston featuring Sean Paul
“Mountain Valley (San’ya)” by Takeo Izumi

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Anonymous

    Not only do new technologies help rob us of productive time they rob us of the very essence of experiencing time. As well as any appreciation of it. There is little reverence left.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    How hard is it to ‘unplug’?   If your ‘plugged-in life defines you, so be it!
       I can see several reasons for various types of people to do either!

  • original famous Cory

    You should have Don Quixote on the panel today.

  • Anonymous

    The two topics today are parallel aspects of the same digital technology being used in various ways by Elites to control the frustration of billions of superfluous people at the injustices of hierarchy and limited access. When I go to the Web I experience an endless imaginary wasteland and I search for sherds of discarded meaning. When I think about the vast sums of electronic money (often as debts and bets) being wangled by Oligarchs, comprehension is difficult and I come away with shadowy abstractions. Computer data manipulation is comprehensive and lightning fast, and so is beyond the scale of human capability. I have allowed myself the tentative
    assumption that anything so far beyond our experience is psychologically meaningless and ethically/morally wrong. Others have embraced religious fictions and magical tinking as compensation. When a technology does not ultimately benefit the majority, and is poorly operated and dimly understood by  those few who  temporarily and partially benefit, it must be scaled down and limited so that it doesn’t overrun the carrying capacity of the human mind. As I have been seriously ill I have reflected on my speculation in commodities over these last three years, and how I have attempted to do constructive things and fight power with the proceeds. Now I see that I was fooled by a gradually attenuated feedback loop so that the more damage I caused the less I served justice. I was no more than a rat in a Lexan box pushing a bar to obtain food pellets, and that is what most colonized minds are like, always tethered to an ethereal stimulus, a Wire Mother.

  • Anonymous

    The two topics today are parallel aspects of the same digital technology being used in various ways by Elites to control the frustration of billions of superfluous people at the injustices of hierarchy and limited access. When I go to the Web I experience an endless imaginary wasteland and I search for sherds of discarded meaning. When I think about the vast sums of electronic money (often as debts and bets) being wangled by Oligarchs, comprehension is difficult and I come away with shadowy abstractions. Computer data manipulation is comprehensive and lightning fast, and so is beyond the scale of human capability. I have allowed myself the tentativeassumption that anything so far beyond our experience is psychologically meaningless and ethically/morally wrong. Others have embraced religious fictions and magical tinking as compensation. When a technology does not ultimately benefit the majority, and is poorly operated and dimly understood by  those few who  temporarily and partially benefit, it must be scaled down and limited so that it doesn’t overrun the carrying capacity of the human mind. As I have been seriously ill I have reflected on my speculation in commodities over these last three years, and how I have attempted to do constructive things and fight power with the proceeds. Now I see that I was fooled by a gradually attenuated feedback loop so that the more damage I caused the less I served justice. I was no more than a rat in a Lexan box pushing a bar to obtain food pellets, and that is what most colonized minds are like, always tethered to an ethereal stimulus, a Wire Mother.

  • Anonymous

    I see Cell Phone Zombies. I see them everywere. They don’t even know they’re Cell Phone Zombies. They only see what they want to see. They don’t even know where they are unless the Cell Phone tells them. They’re not there when they’re there. They’re always somewhere else. They might as well extras in ‘The Matrix’. What ever is happening somewhere else is more important than what is happening where they are. A conversation with someone elsewhere is more important than the people standing right in front of them.

    Is this the death of etiquite? Is this the death of grace?

    Free your mind; Be with those you’re with.

    I am Smartphonicus!

    I am Smartphonicus!

    • JustSayin

      Excellent!  I call it the electronic leash. How many times have we seen the zombie husband in the store being operated like a robot through the store by the master on the other end of the phone. Not for me!

      Maybe to create a new civility everyone needs to just walk away when the person in front of us prioritizes the phone over the individual. Its what I do. I don’t say a word, no emotion, just acceptance. No matter how important the conversation was…I just walk away.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        That’s one option.

  • Stillin

    No cell phone for me, the money I save by NOT having one pays for my vacation every year. I use this computer, at work, and one at the library that way I am not on it much. I feel like I am being left behind, my choice! and I feel like my life is so much more meaningful for it. When I get lost, need help, I like asking a person, not using my cell phone. I don’t need a car that talks to me, anything that “helps” me out like that, I’ll pass. I love my limited techno life. and I feel soooo good.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Some like more, some like less.  That’s fair.  Each has advantages and dis-advantages, more for some, less for others.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      My first six months of cell phone, I kept track of the money it saved, or made for me.  It paid for itself, and more MOST of those months.  Not everyone would get those results, but I did.

  • BHA in Vermont

    You don’t need to move to the boondocks of Japan to “unplug”.
    Dump the Facebook account, dump the Twitter account, get a cell PHONE, not a “do it all, internet connected 4G” device with its $100+ monthly cost and 2 year contract.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Dump cable TV? Watch the important stuff on the Internet.

      Neil

  • Berkshire Dame

    My Goodness, you don’t have to go to Japan to get away from cell phones….just come to Western Massachusetts and many other rural areas in the US that the cell companies, at a million bucks a tower, have zoomed right by!

    Black-hole resorts indeed.  We live in one all the time.  Wen we leave the mountain and travel the mere 10 miles to cell phone civilization it’s a benefit.  Schools can contact parents in an emergency.  Teens must be responsive to parents.  And families can reach it other.  Not so black and white.  No need to demonize it. Just turn it off!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1439572620 Joe Lee

    The problem isn’t the technology. The problem is how we use it. And how we use the technology is driven by our culture.

    If we are complaining about how technology is being used and how people are using technology, we should be examining the cultural roots of those behaviors.

    • http://twitter.com/metasilk Kir Talmage

      Yes, roots and pressures. But also our individual choices to use or not, and how those change in time based on our own experiences, support from others, and basic preferences and tastes.

  • A. Cyborg

    Learned and dedicated self-control is important for overcoming infobesity. The solution is not to become a hermit, the solution is to use your tools well and in a healthy way.

  • BHA in Vermont

    $2,000 a night for a hotel BECAUSE it DOESN’T have TV in the room?  UNPLUG the thing in the $90 room. Idiots with too much money.

    • RandolphIII

      That was a misleading statement on Pico’s part. Being unplugged is an added bonus to Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, the place to which he is referring, but ultimately they are paying for a luxurious vacation experience in an extremely beautiful, natural setting. 

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    I think cable TV (and most commercial TV) is an insidious problem.  With the Internet it at least has a chance of being an *interaction*.  With cable TV, you pay money for the privilege of being subjected to a hard sell.  Why are people doing this?

    Cancel your cable TV, and go to broadcast only!  Choose the off button on your TV…

    Neil

  • andrea

    As one of the people most involved in the web (web designer since 2001), I OD’d ages ago – it is all too much! My friends enjoy surfing the web, but I don’t think of it much more than work! 
    Why would I want to sit in front of my computer or iPad, or scrolling on my iphone (ditched 6 mos ago, btw) after doing that for work every day?

    Side note: I have a $12 go phone now, with no data service and I LOVE it.

  • Anonymous

    I hate listening to other people’s cell phone conversations on public transportation, in stores, or even the library.  People who text during movies or live performances should be savagely beaten. 

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Organize others to assist you in making a similiar disturbance to the phone conversation?

  • Anonymous

    Pico, you are so on point!

    I just returned from a vacation where I had no phone, spotty internet and a laptop. What did I do? I finished reading a book and I jumpstarted my creative writing taking a seminal idea and gave it life. I returned inspired with solid goal. The world didn’t change, but I did!

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Congratulations on the inspiration!

  • Longfellows Evangeline

    Most children born since 1980 have experienced their parents not ‘being there’  not being ‘present, their entire lives.  They bounce off each other, for planning purposes, but not conversations.  So if they are text messaging constantly, it is because that is how they experienced their parents, and the contact through text messaging is really, friendly, validating conversation.  They are the children of the wired early.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Has anyone tracked the connection between ADHD and info-inundation?  The attention-grabbing nature of capitalist society — now know this; now want that — seems a prescription to CAUSE hyperactive, hyperdistractibility; either adapt (by becoming rather giddy, almost helplessly so) or drop out.  The World will Leave You Behind.  Or Else.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    I’ve been online since 1988 and generally enjoy it.  When I’ve worked, it’s helped.  When I’ve done various volunteer projects, the Internet and E-mail have helped enormously.  While I have a cell phone, it is turned off when I’m driving, eating dinner with my husband and overnight.

    Tomorrow, I’ll be turning my sites black and generally avoiding being online to help protest SOPA/PIPA, the latest sets of government overreactions to online piracy.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Do you, or others, have a solution to on-line piracy, and other intellectual piracy?

      • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

        Personally, I don’t (because if I did, I’d be a very well-off consultant).

        Copyright holders have the right to go to a site (like YouTube) and order that their property be removed from the site.  Legit sites, like YouTube, will then take down the violating file(s).  That’s the way it currently works.  While I think sometimes copyright holders ask for stupid things (Like ordering movie trailers be taken down?  Give me a break), I think this is a reasonable way to handle piracy.

        However, it’s wrong for copyright holders to say “Since something I own COULD be on your site, I demand that the whole site should come down.”   It sounds like SOPA/PIPA could do that.  Which means copyright holders could demand sites containing satires or remixes or anything come down completely.

  • ML

    Is your guest familiar with Dominique Wolton, a French researcher, head of the communication lab of the CNRS.  in 1999 he wrote a book called “internet et apres?” would love to hear Pico’s comments if he is familiar with this research

  • Kelseykraft1

    I have 5 roommates. Most of them are using an iPhone when we’re in the common space. It’s hard to tell your own friends that they are addicted. They deny that they are. THIS is the problem. People don’t think they are as bad as everyone else.. 

  • Mjbjr

    This is refreshing to hear.  We are ALL imprisoned by this technology.  The world has lost its magic, mystery, presence & solitude.  Few recognize what has been lost in the digital age and it is nice to hear about people whose eyes are open to to it….

  • Salzburg

    Sounds like Mr. Iyer can read Eckhart Tolles’ first book. And when he is surfing again he can check out the online wonder of Oprah’s Lifeclass made with its international audience. 

  • S.C. Listener

    Walk away… The age of digital Christianity is vapid. 

  • Free, Free, Set Us Free

    I have taken cues from “The Four Hour Work Week” By Tim Ferris. Unplugging from all media (print included) & Internet = removing the shackles.  I took up skate boarding (at 40) & surfing instead.

  • Janet

    Like your guest, I have a book coming out. *Everybody* told me that I *must* set up a Facebook page dedicated to “marketing” it (since we know that publishers expect authors to be their own marketing department). I set one up–and took it down the very next day. Do you have Facebook sites for such purposes?  Any advice?
    Janet from Brighton

    • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

      Most writers I know have some sort of Web presence.  Most handle it well, some do not.  If you’re not comfortable being online, you’re really better off not having Facebook or a Website.

  • Chance A Perdue

    There is certainly a shift taking place with younger folks – while my wife and I are both guilty of iPhone staring, we find ourselves wishing for simplicity and quiet more and more. It seems to be older folks who are often so tethered now.  Just last night, I was repeatedly awakened by a professor FaceBook-ing and texting me!

    • BHA in Vermont

      Turn it off :)

      • http://twitter.com/metasilk Kir Talmage

        I tell my mother-in-law she need not answer her phone if she’s in the bathroom…

        Sigh.

        • BHA in Vermont

          Yep, some things are just unnecessary. It always amazes me when people at work answer calls while using the toilet. Even more bizarre – INITIATING calls while using the toilet.

  • Jeff from Belmont, Mass

    Have you heard of the new practice of phone piling? When people go out to eat everyone piles their phones in a place where everyone can see them and then start the meal. Then as the phones start vibrating, chirping or ringing, whoever picks up their phone first has to pay for the entire meal. I can’t wait for the next time I go out!

  • Lynn

    I guess we’re lucky –  my husband and I run a cabin rental business in upstate NY (Adirondack Mtns) where there is no choice but to accept the fact that your cell phone is not going to work all the time due to the lack of cell towers.  And believe it or not, the only internet access we have is still dial up!  So we cannot offer internet access in our cabins and most or our customers cell phones do not work.  mmm, maybe we should increase our rates to match that California  experience?? 

    Please realize there are still  many folks in rural mountains areas (especially the Adirondacks) where residents lack high speed internet access and reliable cell coverage  — there is still a real need for broad brand infrastructure development in many areas — job creation opportunities????

    Lynn J.

    • Steve

        I believe you have an inspirational idea there! You might want to try a trial balloon marketing strategy but this place-I’m a resident- lends itself to such an endeavour. I wonder if its being done up here? A cabin with shelves of books and brochures of all the things that people can do and see. Maybe parents would see this as a way of the entire family to disengage from the technical world for a week or so? 

  • Ellen Dibble

    The answer is out there, not within, the “still, small voice” we learn to listen to.  However, if you wear a headset, have yourself wired into the Web of Reality, you can be both tuned in and tuned out.  Are you walled off?  Or are you wired in?  It seems to me that young people need both to be more walled off — vulnerable nascent selves with a shell of safety — and to be more wired in, carefully and constantly listening to a world changing at supernatural speed.  
        I think it takes time to figure out which parts of the World and People are best to tune into.  Pick your points of contact, pick your battles.  X will pick this; Y will pick that.  Most things worth paying attention are worth that attention exactly because they call forth long attention, returning attention.

  • Morgannatick

    An article in the NY Times a month ago was about NOT JOINING Facebook, and the individuals who have intentionally not joined are happy with their choice. The individuals I know who are extremely successful have not joined and don’t mind having their professional websites be how the rest of the world follows them.

    Not riding the wave, and treating our time like it is to be cherished fits the history of humanity better than current fads.

    “Technology. It’s a tool not a toy”

  • Arana

    I have my iPhone always on my belt… I teach Computer Science, and helped develop a lot of these technologies. The problem is not the technology it is the lack of willpower! (Plug for the OnPoint show, and book about the same!). We don’t allow texting, etc during dinner, while watching TV, etc. We still play board games with our kids, because we like them!! We finally got a Wii, but limit it’s use by time.
    If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of input, just ignore the messages. Yes, people tell me that I “don’t respond fast enough”, what they don’t know is that when it’s important I do. Sometimes their input just isn’t as ‘urgent’ as they think it is.

    I don’t need to unplug, I have learned to just IGNORE!!

    • BHA in Vermont

      ” Yes, people tell me that I “don’t respond fast enough”, what they don’t know is that when it’s important I do.”

      Going to be a big blow to their egos when they find out that their every thought is NOT important to you :)

      • Arana

        I just don’t tell them that! :-) I apologize and move on. They think (and learn) that I just don’t respond very fast to them. The ones that don’t bombard me with trivial bits of their lives, think I respond quite fast enough!!

      • DEEZ

        Looks like responding to you was fairly important to Arana as it took less than 10 minutes.
        It’s probably because us On Point listeners are the best people in the world

        • BHA in Vermont

          And less for you, because you are even MORE important ;)

          I think the difference is that we are all choosing to be in a “conversation” though hundreds, if not thousands, of miles apart.

    • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

      My husband and I generally agree about when it’s appropriate to be online, and when it isn’t.  The main thing we disagree on is over watching TV.  I love to find out more about what I’m watching, exchange notes with others, et.c. but my husband still finds this annoying.  Basically, when we’re watching something he really cares about, I won’t use my laptop (until he asks a question that IMDB could answer!).

  • emma

    I find the assumption that the younger generation is ‘addicted’ to technology incredibly offensive. I am 19 and just as capable of turning off the phone or Internet as anyone who did not grow up with this technology. I don’t tweet about what I ate for lunch, and I have a facebook page but am ‘friends’ with under 30 people and am able to use this tool as an extension of living friendships instead of a replacement. Perhaps the assertion that the majority of young people do not behave this way needs to be examined. Sometimes the outliers speak the loudest.

    • BEEZ

      Unfortunately, Emma, it does appear to be the majority (even if not in your circle)

      • emma

        My circle is pretty diverse in terms of how much technology people utilize. Some use more, some use less. I totally agree that the majority probably use more forms of technology, but I also believe that the majority are able to use technology responsibly. It depends on your definition, of course, but I just don’t believe most are addicted.
        I agree that there are many young abusers of technology, but I believe there are just as many responsible users–I resent the labeling of an entire generation.

  • Deborah

    I teach college students and one class was so distracted that I mentioned ADD and they all agreed that it was a problem.  The assault on their attention is so bad that they cannot concentrate even for a few minutes and they know it is not good.  I fear this generation will have a terrible time getting and keeping a job and finding a way to think deeply and be thoughtful about things in their lives. 

  • Lara

    We generally tune out of e-mail on the weekend and in the evenings, but today I negelected to send my son to school with lunch in the required paper bag for a field trip because I didn’t see the e-mail send by the teacher at 9 pm.  I still need paper reminders!!

    Also, I’m not on face book but recently almost joined after a college friend died suddenly in California and I felt so completely disconnected from my college friends who are spread throughout the country.  However, I didn’t really begin to feel better until I spoke to a friend about it, and I’m not sure reading about it online would have helped.  I needed to talk with someone to start processing.

    • BHA in Vermont

      School officials that think all parents live on their email accounts need to turn their brains on. And what happens to the kids who’s parents don’t do email or there is no internet at their home?

      I was on the board of a non-profit for 9 years. Checked my email every day because ‘stuff’ came up. Now that I’m off the board, I check it maybe twice a week. My cell phone is turned off unless I’m away from home. No Facebook, no Twitter.

      If you want something ‘immediately’ I have a land line without the rude Call Waiting option, use it. :)

  • Paul Mushruash

    Six friends and I were recently having a discussion, agreeing that we are not overly connected, like folks that constantly use Twitter, etc, but I could not finish the real-time conversation when I had to log off of Facebook!

    Paul
    39 years old
    Leominster, MA

  • Edwarwick

    I worry about the very young.  I see parents/nannies/other caregivers in the park, in waiting rooms, etc. talking on their phones rather than interacting with the children that are with them. What is the message here?  What counts?

    • Arana

      My daycare provider had a rule… You weren’t allowed inside, if you were on your phone!!

      She said “Your children have missed you all day and are eagerly awaiting your arrival, you need to let them know they are important, by greeting them ‘properly’! ”

      She taught me to treat my children better at pickup time…

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Too bad that people need to be ‘taught’ that by a daycare!

  • Kathy

    The problem is not being plugged in 24/7. The problem is your employer assuming that being plugged in means you are at their beck and call.

    Finding a cute picture of a cat someone posted on facebook while on my vacation is not a problem. Having the boss assume I will remote in and work is.

    • Anonymous

      I have a rule about Employers and Cell Phones.  If they didn’t provide the phone, then they can’t use it.  Period.

      I worked at a job where co-workers tried calling me on my cell phone during Business Hours.  I turned the ringer off and kept my phone in my purse all day.  It was MY PHONE.  MY PLAN.  That I PAID FOR.  It’s not theirs and they have no right to use it ever.

      If they need you to be at their beck and call, then they can pay for the phone, the plan, the replacement phones, the data, the accessories… all of it.

      Otherwise they can wait for my return call when I feel like calling back.

      They are called Boundaries.  If you are wise you will set those boundaries early and often and be firm.

  • Catherinebohn

    I agree with the comments that there is FB etc offers “too much information.”  In the “old days,” when a girlfriend breaks up with a boy, the boy can only imagine what she might be doing on a Friday night.  Now he is immediate access to exactly what she is doing (photos and all).  No one but especially teenagers likes to be left out and now there is, again, photographic evidence of all the ways one is on the outside.

    Second, I believe that self-concept and identity are formed, in part through, and with the help of, being alone.  For young people, there is far less opportunity or inclination to be alone (eg my niece who sleeps with her phone to check texts, etc., to be sure she hasn’t missed anything).

    Catherine Bohn (clinical psychologist)

    • BEEZ

      I agree it fosters imagination and creativity. My 15 month old son doesn’t (and won’t for a while) watch tv, and it’s not just what he may see, but it’s also what watching tv takes away from him…it’s good for kids (and us adults) to be bored!

  • Allen

    Think about this as an evolutionary pressure that change the environment we live in. We used to admire people who can memorize a lot of information now we admire people who can process large quantity of data in the shortest period of time. The environment has changed and will produce a different kind of winners. For kids in classroom with superior ability to multitasking, we should treat them as other kids with exceptional ability because they do have a special talent valued by the future society.

  • Isaac Walton

    Thankfully, I left a company that seemed to pressure/incentivize employees to stay connected constantly. Receiving emails well past closing time and on weekends. 

  • Ehdoss

    Part of the need to be connected comes from a digital delusion of grandeur.  

    As I turn of my cell phone and TV and e-mail I’ve found the world has gotten along quite well without me. 

  • Isaac Walton

    I agree. I actually felt sad that nobody missed me when I wasn’t online and constantly replying to texts and emails. I knew then that something was very wrong. 

  • Amanda from Concord, MA

    Has anyone mentioned how others treat you when unplugging IS your preference? I was lucky enough to take an extended trip to India 4 years ago where connectivity was limited at best. It wasn’t my choice NOT to connect (at first :), but my family went to some great imaginary extremes as to what they thought had happened to me, culminating in concerns that I had joined a cult. Seriously?? Disconnecting was the best gift I ever gave myself and to this day I am NOT a slave to technology. I have no interest in facebook (too needy), I check my personal emails maybe once a week, and the cell phone, while handy as my only phone, I pretty much check before and after work & leave on a shelf on vibrate when I’m home. I check it randomly, but catch endless flack to this day about not conforming to other’s expectations.. the rebel in me knows that that’s exactly why I do it ~ conformity just isn’t for me.. baaaaaaa…. lol…

  • Anonymous

    Although I agree with much of what is being said about the need to occaissionally unplug and tune-out, it is a bit ironic that I am listening to this show on my iPhone streaming across the internet while I do chores. 

  • Guest

    I am 75 years old, a reader first, a knitter second, a columnist, mother, grandmother, etc.I travel whenever I am able. I am fascinated by every aspect of technology and use a cell phone and an Ipad.  I find it enriches my life.
    I have found that those who most dislike these new ways of communicating are the ones who have the most difficulty using them.  My friend who is unable to figure out how to use the ATM at her bank, hates cell phones.  Luddites, face yourselves!
    Lily 

  • http://twitter.com/metasilk Kir Talmage

    I am blessed in that our house is out of cell phone range, but I do have DSL. I find the following helps me (a mother, partly self-employed with a web-based business–I sympathize with the recent call-in commenter!) helps me moderate/ meter connectivity:
    1 — Lists. I divvy up the streams/blogs/pages I follow into lists, only a few of which are checked frequently (sorta daily, but not every day nor only once the day they are checked).2 — Close the laptop. Or TV. I become very fond of the off button. 

    3– Intentionally enjoy (as best I can) when I _am_ online, whether working, playing a game, or exploring link-to-link, or feeling connected to old friends.

    4– I recall Miss Manners pointing out that the answering machine is rather equivalent to the old-fashioned butler, who occasionally told callers that one was “indisposed” or “unable to receive callers”. I took this to mean that one was not required to be available at someone else’s whim, and turn about, it is rude and self-centered to assume someone be available at my whim. I try to approach voice mail and e-mail with that in mind–and twitter and facebook too. 

    5– Give myself permission to miss stuff. It’s OK.

    Still working on finding time to meditate, though. Got 5 minutes just sitting the other day!

    • BHA in Vermont

      RE: #4 – That is what Caller ID is for (we can’t afford a butler, and wouldn’t have a room for one anyway ;) ). We answer if it is someone we know and we don’t answer “Out of Area” or 800 numbers or known “they want donations” callers. Surprisingly, those callers NEVER, EVER leave a message. Apparently I wasn’t so “important” after all.

  • http://twitter.com/metasilk Kir Talmage

    I am blessed in that our house is out of cell phone range, but I do have DSL. I find the following helps me (a mother, partly self-employed with a web-based business–I sympathize with the recent call-in commenter!) helps me moderate/ meter connectivity:
    1 — Lists. I divvy up the streams/blogs/pages I follow into lists, only a few of which are checked frequently (sorta daily, but not every day nor only once the day they are checked).2 — Close the laptop. Or TV. I become very fond of the off button. 

    3– Intentionally enjoy (as best I can) when I _am_ online, whether working, playing a game, or exploring link-to-link, or feeling connected to old friends.

    4– I recall Miss Manners pointing out that the answering machine is rather equivalent to the old-fashioned butler, who occasionally told callers that one was “indisposed” or “unable to receive callers”. I took this to mean that one was not required to be available at someone else’s whim, and turn about, it is rude and self-centered to assume someone be available at my whim. I try to approach voice mail and e-mail with that in mind–and twitter and facebook too. 

    5– Give myself permission to miss stuff. It’s OK.

    Still working on finding time to meditate, though. Got 5 minutes just sitting the other day!

    • http://twitter.com/metasilk Kir Talmage

      oops sorry for double-post; still trying to grok the interface (on Google Chrome, which was not updating the form field after sending it)

  • Laurie

    I have been a midwife for almost 30 years.  Having a profession where for periods of time I’m “on call” – 100% available to care for my clients at a moments notice – has made me really happy to have a stupid phone from which I can make phone calls (and take an occasional photo) – you can text me on my pager if you really want to, then I’ll call you back.  For me, email is something I check on my computer – nothing so urgent as to require constant checking.  I’ve sort of gotten control of my junk mail, but email spam is becoming more annoying. I can’t figure out why anyone would want to Twitter, but I am in awe of the role social media played in the liberation movements in the Middle East.  I listen to CDs on my Bose player, but appreciated my 13 year olds New Year’s Eve DJing music from the 50s to today through a laptop operated by his brother’s iphone, but I don’t think I want to learn how to do that, but I think maybe I could if I wanted to.

    A wise spiritual adviser once told me that it isn’t the “tool” that is good or evil, but the hands that use it.  I think that we have a lot to learn about how to wisely use the technologies available to us and not have them “use” us in ways that causes harm to individuals, others or society as a whole.  I do think that the answers will be very individual and personal – not the same for each of us, or our families or our human society and cultures.  The Amish have cultivated a way of life that eschews technology, yet also thoughtfully examines the effects of new tools on the person and the community.  They have much to teach us.

  • guest

    Who’s to say? How do we measure such things? Perhaps we shouldn’t evaluate anyone’s technology use but our own. (emma, beez) Can’t go by what we see around us (even though I see teens plugged in all around me, might not be how they are in their private lives)

    • BEEZ

      I wasn’t evaluating it, per se, I was going by what I observe around me in society, my family and at (grad) school.
      It’s ironic you differeniate between private lives and the use of texting, FB, etc., because to me that is partially the premise here; that there is less and less separation between socializing/networking and private lives. If it’s that prevalent in public you can bet it’s more than likely even more extreme at home. They just do it in front of the TV and/or computer. That is just the reality of where society is right now…

  • guest

    An illustration I made recently, related to all this…

  • Gil_anderson

    I’ve been a teacher for 30+ years and find that young people are mired in a web of electronics.  Their ability to read deeply has much diminished as has their appreciation for the natural world and the ability to do physical work   It is good to hear that some are trying to turn it off. It reminds me of Orwell’s 1984 where the members of the inner party could turn off their telescreens, except of course, that Big Brother is us.

  • revolve

    it doesn’t matter how articulate the president’s message is–the problem is the audience who are extremely conditioned, uneducated, stubborn and often–completely insane.  The American public.  Obama, even more so a truly progressive representative is just bashing his head against a brick wall until it is a bloody pulp.  The American paradigm is the brick wall.  Tear down that wall America!  You are a scourge on the planet, on humanity.  every civilization that that has fallen–Romans, Sumerians, Incas–was because the people, refused to change, denied the truth arrogantly and stubbornly–even as the train went hurtling off the clif they refused to get off–(mixing my metaphors)–the titanic is sinking an you brainiacs are sitting on the deck–not even rearranging deck chairs–you just refuse to believe the ship is sinking even as the ice cold water creeps around your testicles.

  • revolve

    it doesn’t matter how articulate the president’s message is–the problem is the audience who are extremely conditioned, uneducated, stubborn and often–completely insane.  The American public.  Obama, even more so a truly progressive representative is just bashing his head against a brick wall until it is a bloody pulp.  The American paradigm is the brick wall.  Tear down that wall America!  You are a scourge on the planet, on humanity.  every civilization that that has fallen–Romans, Sumerians, Incas–was because the people, refused to change, denied the truth arrogantly and stubbornly–even as the train went hurtling off the clif they refused to get off–(mixing my metaphors)–the titanic is sinking an you brainiacs are sitting on the deck–not even rearranging deck chairs–you just refuse to believe the ship is sinking even as the ice cold water creeps around your testicles.

  • revolve

    it doesn’t matter how articulate the president’s message is–the problem is the audience who are extremely conditioned, uneducated, stubborn and often–completely insane.  The American public.  Obama, even more so a truly progressive representative is just bashing his head against a brick wall until it is a bloody pulp.  The American paradigm is the brick wall.  Tear down that wall America!  You are a scourge on the planet, on humanity.  every civilization that that has fallen–Romans, Sumerians, Incas–was because the people, refused to change, denied the truth arrogantly and stubbornly–even as the train went hurtling off the clif they refused to get off–(mixing my metaphors)–the titanic is sinking an you brainiacs are sitting on the deck–not even rearranging deck chairs–you just refuse to believe the ship is sinking even as the ice cold water creeps around your testicles.

  • revolve

    sorry–i had posted to wrong program.  meant to post dem and cap.  a system error fooled me into posting my com repeatedly.  sorry.

  • Roy Mac

    Pico Iyer?  What a twit!  Do people actually pay to read what he has to say??  No wonder we end up with abominations like the Teabaggers.

  • http://whilewestillhavetime.blogspot.com/ John Hamilton

    There are some obvious truths here. One is that this trend has not been here forever, and won’t be here forever after. Another is that this conversation is devoid of context. We live in a time of economic decline, climate change, and a corrupt political and corporate class. Along with this we have a celebrity obsessed bread and circuses culture that operates in tandem with a fanatical religious fundamentalism. And these in tandem with a rampant drug and alcohol scourge.

    With all these dynamics working in concert the addiction to electronic media looks pretty mild. But mild or not, if the polar ice caps melt, it will be the least of our concerns.

  • Longfellows Evangeline

    Although kids have away to connect with the friends they already have,  they are no different from the adults who walk around talking on phones and are a danger to themselves and others.
    I was horrified over the christmas holidays to see a three year old playing with her toy iphone.  She walked out of the room and kept walking around everyone there, tilting and dodging and talking and oblivious to what was going on around her.  It must be what she experiences at home.  Her parents walk away from each other and her when they are on the phone and become unreachable to her and one another.  This will become part of that’ child’s nervous system, and response mechanism.  She turns off rapidly when you walk up to her when she is playing in her little kitchen.  She leans her head and smiles as if she was a personnel manager.  All mimicing, naturally.

  • RandolphIII

    As someone who feels he spends far too much time on the Internet, but shuns smart phones and facebook, I am fascinated by this subject, but it’s not a new concept. It’s been covered a great deal, notably by Sherry Turkle and her research at MIT. Everyone agrees new technology is here to stay but that finding balance is essential to remaining human and engaged with one’s surroundings. Many of us adults are currently seduced by technology and it’s up to us to control our use, but for the youth of today, they need parents to set a good example or they will lack the balance, I feel, will lead to a more appreciative, meaningful life.

  • CCP

    A classic volume by Edwin Way Teale (A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm, 1974) tells the ultimate tale of being unplugged.  It is a marvel at what can be noticed, even the most minute detail, when one stops to sit and observe.  The author’s life seemed to be so full and satisfying because he and his wife made a conscious decision later on in life, to observe their surroundings.  It caused me to stop while on a run and listening to this very program today and pick up a lovely feather to show my 6 year old later on….

  • Artbymeera

    I am 55 years old. I discovered my love of painting only a few years ago and now have a blog -artbymeera.blogspot.com. The technology made it possible for me to connect with the artist community around the world and show my art to a wider audience which would have been next to impossible given how difficult it is get an entry into the art world. Where as before I got frustrated that i couldn’t share my art, the blog has helped me paint regularly and improve my skills because I want to post regularly. Yes, I do spend more time than I should checking other blogs etc but my world has definitely exploded with possibilities, connections, opened doors to acquire knowledge that would not have been possible without the wonderful internet for someone from a small town. I love being connected!  

  • http://profiles.google.com/camillenapierbernstein camille napier bernstein

    I’ve always found something intriguing and wonderful about strict Orthodox Sabbath practices of not doing work or using modern conveniences.  Last year, I instituted “no tech Tuesdays” in our house after our power went out and I could hear nothing but the gorgeous breathing of my son (at that time, 9 months). 

    For the past 10 years in my h.s. English classes, I’ve begun each class with Stillness — 3 min period of internal/external stillness.  The practice/discipline is probably one of the best lessons I teach my students — at least it’s the most enduring, they say.  My town’s education foundation awarded me a grant to buy equipment for meditation club.  Now, three years later, it’s morphed into an alternate study hall.  I sometimes get to meditate 6 times a day with my students. 

  • Pingback: Tet! In Vietnam? « Hanoi Eats Sarah

  • The_Irish_Cowboy

    Does anyone know where to find a transcript of this interview? I’d like to share it with my students, but I think they would be better able to follow along with the interview if they had the text in front of them while they listen. 

ONPOINT
TODAY
Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

RECENT
SHOWS
Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

 
Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Comment
 
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Comment
 
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment