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Are we addicted to the digital world?

By February 8, 20106 Comments

I have thought about the fact that we are all digital multi-taskers, and I am 100% guilty. In fact, I’m probably doing it right now! 🙂 I have been making an effort to shut the computer, close facebook, close chat, turn off the TV(although I don’t watch much TV), put my phone on silent… even if it’s just for a couple hours a day (when I’m not riding my bike). Admittedly, it’s hard for me. Even on bike rides, I sometimes find myself checking my phone. Can we say it? ADDICT. Point finger. Digital addict.

We got the internet when I was in middle school. I used to email back and forth with my “soccerfreak13” email and play Quake against my friend over the ‘net. I try to imagine what things were like for people one or two generation ahead of me, where they actually went through school/college, and even started their real job without cell phones or internet. I remember when I got my first cell phone. My family shared this brick of a phone while I was in high school, but in college I got my own.

I think that the ‘net keeps us more connected in a lot of ways. I mean, look at all of you wonderful readers I connect with, I look at the people I connect with on facebook and twitter, and it is HUGE. However, I wonder if the computer and the phone also disconnect us from those who are closest to us. Sure, we can be chatting with 3 or 4 people at once, updating our facebook status, writing a blog post, texting, and listening to a TV show, all at the tap tap of your fingertips on the keyboard. However, what about those people who are physically next to you? I believe that if we are unable to disconnect for at least some amount of time, we lose that very important personal interaction with our present flesh and blood friends. What about at dinner when you are texting, answering your phone, watching the news with your computer open at the coffee table?

The digital era has also commanded a new expectation from everyone around us. For example, if you take a vacation from your work, you are still expected to “check in” and be available over email. If you don’t answer your cell phone, people get frustrated. If you don’t answer a friend’s text in a timely manner, they think you’re mad at them… or in matters of love/flirtatious relationships, if your text goes unanswered, you get that lump in your throat thinking something is wrong. … but I do love texting! 🙂

I have been trying to embrace things I love that aren’t digital and hit the “pause” button (although clearly I spend way more time online than I do NOT online). Answer: partake in all the outdoor activities I love, play guitar, read books, write, go out with friends, organize, read more, focus more on one thing at a time, focus on deepening relationships with people I can look in the face when I talk to them. I’m still not very good at it, but I am making an effort to not lose myself (and someone like me who is very connected to my online community), well that’s difficult. On facebook, a lot of people said if they couldn’t get online, they’d go ride. I love all of our enthusiasm for our bikes, but you can take that to another level – are we addicted to our bikes? Shouldn’t there be other things in your life that you love as much as bike riding? That’s just a for instance. I might go to far as to say that as avid cyclists, we may lack the certain things that make us well-rounded (not condemning it, just thinking out loud). There’s nothing wrong with eat, ride, sleep, eat – but are we missing out on other very important life experiences? Probably.

What has provoked this post? A friend of mine actually posted this link on his facebook (oh, the irony! and the irony that it’s online!) but here it is. It is 1.5 hours, but you can watch it in segments if you don’t have the time. The segments are right above the box playing the show (it took me awhile to find that out).

Click here. I highly recommend watching part of it.

Makes those gears in my head spin furiously… how ’bout you?


  • Mike says:

    I saw that show some time ago, at least part of it. It is interesting. I can’t fathom growing up in the age of the internet.

    Crap I feel old now…. I didn’t see the internet (as people know it today) until after college, in fact Marc Andreessen was a classmate of mine (creator of NCSA Mosaic the first graphical internet browser which became Netscape then Firefox). I didn’t know of Andreessen until much later, but I certainly could have had a class with him.

    For me the digital world has reconnected me to people I never even thought I would meet again. I have three high school classmates that live in the area. We bumped into each other on Facebook. Funny though, we have talked about meeting up but I have only met up with one of them.

    My day is full of IRC, SMS, multiple email accounts, collaboration tools, Facebook, Twitter. All these allow me to be connected to others fairly easily. If I had to talk to them on the phone or see them face to face it just wouldn’t happen. My job relies on these tools as I don’t see my fellow engineers face to face but once or twice a year, but we communicate daily… in fact I just received an IRC from a fellow engineer in Japan asking me about some tests I ran earlier in (my) day. I often have to disconnect otherwise I’ll be working 24×7 (you know, 31).

    Though, when I win the lotto I will probably disappear from many of the social net sites and most of the Internet (except and Ebay)…

  • sonya says:

    Hey Mike! Thanks for sharing! Yes! Because of the internet, I have been able to connect with many people, strangers and old friends alike, and have a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips. I think there is definitely a balance, but honestly I can’t imagine how this world would function without internet and computers anywmore!

  • Chrissy says:

    Hmmm…sitting at the coffee table watching the news with the laptop open? I know somebody that might fit that! 😀

  • Mike says:

    I was without internet most of yesterday thanks to my ISP. I was running around in circles trying to figure out how to get anything done. To add to that all my home phones are VIOP so I could not use the phone. I think the world would come to a grinding halt at many levels if this stuff was to suddenly fail or stop working. I reminisced about this on my blog as my company was closing it’s doors, since it was the company that created many of the enabling technologies for the internet that are taken for granted today.

  • Carey says:

    There’s something about the virtual world of the internet that doesn’t feel “real” to me..something is “off”, it’s always been there, I often ignore it because it is such an enormous resource but I’m thinking of doing an internet fast sometime soon..nothing compares to real, face to face interactions for me, whatever they may be.

  • rich.m says:

    Mike, I think the show you saw is called ‘growing up online,’ also by Frontline. It’s more about kids. ‘Digital nation’ includes that plus the effect on adults.

    They are both excellent.

    Growing up online…(search it on fronlineline if you don’t like clicking links.)

    My related anecdote is that I tried to watch Digital nation while I was working on a programming project. I realized I wasn’t paying attention to frontline, rewinded it, and saw that it was the part where they did the multi-tasking test to the colleges students and were showing them how poor they were doing. I guess it’s true.

    Seems we can multitast with art and music but as soon as information like speech or words come into the mix, we can only focus on one of them.

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