Until recently I had never heard of Baratunde Thurston. He’s a best-selling author, stand-up comedian, consultant, businessman, and New York Times columnist whose friends have called him “the most connected man in the world.” He writes about loving his devices, digital services, and never-ending connections with the global network. But the more connected he became, the more Thurston was aware of “the price we pay: lack of depth, reduced accuracy, lower quality, impatience, selfishness and mental exhaustion to name a few. In choosing to digitally enhance, hyperconnect, and constantly share our lives, we risk not living them.” For Thurston, “life was crazy” so he decided to completely disconnect for 25 days.” His experience is told in the cover story of Fast Company magazine (July/August, 2013.)
Perhaps this article has little relevance to most of us. We’re not teenagers or college students addicted to our devices. But are we as free as we think? How many of us would be willing to unplug for almost a month? The magazine editor notes that we all value our technological connections, even when we realize that “the triumph of digital culture hasn’t changed the fact that nothing beats face-to-face interaction with the depth and spontaneity that we can’t match via email, Skype, texting or video conferencing.” During his digital sabbatical, Thurston slowed down and rediscovered relaxation, reading, concerts and leisurely times with friends.
How do we keep connected and updated without being captured and controlled by the devices and messages that we love and sometimes hate? Here are suggestions:
- Consistently unplug for shorter periods of time: Sundays, evenings after 8 pm, during church services, times when we are in meetings or in restaurants. Maybe the height of rudeness is checking messages when we are meeting or having a meal with someone.
- Try making this a family rule: no devices including television allowed during mealtimes. What does this mean if you can’t do this?
- Try an unplugged weekend or even a vacation. Recently my wife and I took a two-week trip and left computers and cell phones at home so we wouldn’t be tempted. We loved it.
- Ponder how technological devices are adversely impacting your life.
What are other ways to keep the benefits without being controlled by digital devices? Please comment.