Decisions. Decisions. At 5 a.m. this morning I had a decision to make. I could run outside in the cold drizzle of a dark NE Ohio mid-December morning. Or I could head to the fitness center and chase the belt on the treadmill while soaking in the sights and sounds of the morning TV shows. I hit the concrete.
And one reason is that I treasure the time alone and off the grid. I relish not being plugged into audio and video, not tethered to my BlackBerry, and not squirming over the most recent e-mail that demands my immediate attention and reply. It’s both exhilarating and calming to be enveloped in silence. I expect many don’t agree.
Before embarking on my self-propelled tour of the neighborhood, I read an interesting Washington Post online article by Adrian Higgins, “We can’t see the forest for the T-Mobiles.” Here’s from the article:
Technology has drawn us into our interconnected webs, in the office, on the street, on the park bench, to the point that we exist virtually everywhere except in the physical world. Robert Harrison, a professor of Italian literature at Stanford University, laments that when students pass through the school’s visually stimulating campus, iPhones, BlackBerrys and all the evolving devices and apps draw them into their blinkered personal realms. “Most of the groves, courtyards, gardens, fountains, artworks, open spaces and architectural complexes have disappeared behind a cloaking device, it would seem,” he writes in his book “Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition.”
This retreat from the natural world is most evident in the young, but it is not a generational phenomenon, he argues. Instead, the ubiquity of the computer is changing the very essence of the human animal. We are in the midst of a historical change in “our mode of vision,” he says, “which is bound up with our mode of being.”
And then Higgins opines: “We have become digital zombies.”
Ouch. But you know what — she has a point. I don’t get out in the real world all that much these days, but when I do — in a restaurant or at the airport — it’s striking how many people are engaged not with each other, but with their magic phones texting, e-mailing, surfing the Web, talking and so on.
And that must be true virtually everywhere — at home, work, on vacation and among all age groups.
A recent NYT article by Nick Bilton says that “the average American consumes about 34 gigabytes of data and information each day.” (Note to self: No wonder it is so difficult for any organization to communicate effectively — on just about any subject to anyone. Go figure.) Here’s from the article:
According to calculations in the report (by researchers at the University of California, San Diego), that daily information diet includes about 100,000 words, both those read in print and on the Web as well as those heard on television and the radio. By comparison, Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” contains about 460,000 words.
The researchers, who built their work on previous studies of information consumption, found that Americans take in data through various channels, including the television, radio, the Web, text messages and video games. Most of this time is spent in front of screens watching TV-related content, averaging nearly five hours of daily consumption.
Second is radio, which the average American listens to for about 2.2 hours a day. The computer comes in third, at just under two hours a day. Video games take up about an hour, and reading takes up 36 minutes.
Most of these experiences happen simultaneously, like talking on the phone while checking e-mail, or instant messaging while watching TV.
I’m going to stick to running — unplugged — for as long as I can.
Even a digital zombie like me deserves a safe haven. You deserve one too.