Summer is a time where most of us look forward to enjoying some well-deserved relaxation. However, between BlackBerries, iPhones, laptops and wifi it’s difficult to completely disconnect. Have you ever planned on having a relaxing dinner, or on going to bed early, when you receive an urgent email that completely distracts you? I think we ALL have!
That’s precisely why William Powers’ new book Hamlet’s BlackBerry immediately intrigued me. He wrote it as a ‘practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age’ aimed at helping readers unplug from technology and be fully present around family and friends. Powers understands how difficult this can be, especially when so many people are married to their jobs as well as their spouses. The proof is in the pudding for Powers who practices this philosophy in his own life. To counteract his family’s connectedness they have weekend ‘dead time’ where their modem is unplugged and cell phones are turned off. He claims to see a huge improvement in family communication that brings them closer together and has lasting effects throughout the week.
Powers also theorizes that constant connectivity both fragments our social network and distracts us from our own internal dialogue. When you’re tending to relationships through several different avenues of communication (tweet, wall post, text, e-mail) it has an isolating effect. Keeping tabs on your friends and loved ones digitally just isn’t sufficient as it’s missing a human element. Similarly, all of this digital communication distracts us so much that we don’t have time to think anymore. Our thoughts are so jumbled from the buzzing, beeping or flashing we don’t have the chance to take a look around and ‘smell the roses’.
Powers knows that the digital world is here to stay and doesn’t expect readers to stop using technology all together. He’s simply suggesting better ways to balance connectivity with real life, one-on-one communication so we can live happier, less stressed lives. As PR professionals we know the importance of connectedness all too well and it’s good for us to take a deep breath and relax every once in a while!
Read a July 20th interview with William Powers by NPR and an excerpt from Hamlet’s Blackberry here. How do you feel about the pervasiveness of digital connectivity today? Is it a friend or foe?