I recently read an article entitled “Why We Should Keep Wi-Fi Off Airplanes” by Scott Belsky. Here’s what he said:
In the era of “reactionary workflow,” when we’re always eager to react, respond, and surf the tops of our many feeds and inboxes, we seldom start a thought on our own. We don’t disconnect for long enough to really think organically, without interruption.I’ve pondered this problem before. One of the things I loved when I first got a smartphone was the constant connectivity, no matter whether I was in Wi-Fi range or not. I received emails within minutes of their being sent. Twitter mentions got my immediate attention. Even Facebook notifications came to my home screen. It was great.
In an era where most thoughts are prompted by a stimulus of the hyper-connected-twitter-e-mail kind, we seldom disconnect long enough to think organically—independent of the stuff we are reacting to.
Then several months ago, I decided to switch back to a dumbphone and use my iPod Touch for everything else. The thing I loved about the switch was how liberated I felt. No longer was I always connected, with emails and tweets constantly clamoring for my attention. Even when I was in Wi-Fi range, those things weren’t nearly as intrusive. It was wonderful. I could live life disconnected when I wanted to.
One thing I appreciate about religion is the invitation to ponder, meditate, and think. Without that, I would be running around constantly connected and never stopping to think for myself or enjoy life for its own sake. That has become such an important thing for me that I try to devote an entire day to it once a week. Sunday is a welcome break from the noise and distraction of the rest of my life.
Technology has allowed us humans to connect in many ways that were never possible before. But the most fulfilling interactions still come in old-fashioned ways–talking face to face, doing things together, enjoying nature or the arts. Those things prompt independent, “organic” thought, as Scott calls it. That is critical to our functioning as humans.
I disagree that it means we need to keep Wi-Fi off planes. Instead, the desire for thought and meditation ought to be an intrinsic motivator itself that guides us to give it priority.
EDIT (17 Aug 2011): Dave Pell wrote a post today entitled “Does the Internet Make You More Connected?” that I highly recommend. It fits nicely with my thoughts here.