"A soulful polemic that challenges the sacred dogma of the digital age--that the more we connect with others, the happier we are--arguing that as our electronic connectedness grows, we are pulled away from the relationships and experiences that give life texture, depth, and meaning"--
Powers also talks about the experience of his own family in going disconnected on the weekends and how it has deepened what they do together. He is concerned that we be aware of the need for balance now, before the habit of times devoted to such balance is lost. A book worth reading.
Granted, the first two chapters weren't very promising. It took a while before he made a point that really resonated with me, and that point was this: our degree of connectedness (ranging from perfect solitude to complete immersion the crowd) is up to us to decide, for ourselves, at any given moment. It seems like a "well, duh" kind of point, until you think about how often we become the tools of our tools. For example, I know I don't need to check my e-mail 18 times a day. But every time that little envelope icon appears on my smartphone, I tap in and check it. (Sidebar: it's usually ALA spam.) Furthermore, when reading e-mail this way, I rarely pause to take the time to compose a thoughtful response. The phone has enabled me to be more connected, more often, but the price for that connectedness has been a decline in reflection and thoughtful engagement. One particular comment leaped off the page at me:
"The question now is how truly individual -- as in bold, original, unique -- you can be if you never step back from the crowd. When we think and write from within our busyness, surrounded by countless other voices, too often the result is reactive, derivative, short-shelf-life stuff."
Highly, highly recommended for anyone who feels like they're spending too much time glued to screens.
The book looks back through history at different technological leaps to see how they were received and how they were abused, pointing out that anything can be used for good or bad, depending on who is doing the using. That's the important thing to remember when evaluating technology -- "Is this going to make my life easier? And what am I going to do with the time I am saving?"
You could do the ironic thing and get this as an e-book, but whatever you do, get this and read it. It will encourage you to have a little perspective, and maybe you'll even step away from the phone/computer/tablet and do something new. Interact with real, live, people.