I will keep this short because Husband and the girls are in the living room savoring some morning cartoons along with a vast bowl of fresh berries. And I want to be with them. But instead. Instead, I am here. Writing words. Asking questions. Blogging. I am doing this because I love to do this, yes. I am also doing this because I have committed to doing this, to a regimen of output. I am also doing this, leaving my daily digital stamp, because it has become part of me, of who I am, of how I think and live and exist.
And is this a good thing? That my digital persona is critical to my contemporary identity? That I am here, tapping on keys, squinting into a screen, when my beloved creatures are having a pajama and puzzle party in the next room? I'm not so sure.
A recent article in the New York Times called Your Brain on Computers: Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price has me thinking and, to be frank, it has me worried. This piece by Matt Richtel is long and stuffed with scientific data and sage insights and I recommend that you ingest it in its entirety because I can only touch on a few of its salient points. After all, I have living and breathing and loving people to reunite with once I peel myself from the laptop. At the core of this article is the reality that "there is a vibrant debate among scientists over whether technologys influence on behavior and the brain is good or bad, and how significant it is."
The picture that accompanies the article is of a couple sitting at the breakfast table and there is no eye-contact, no conversation. Instead, man and woman are each focused on an iPad. Richtel notes, "Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information." The gist is that all of these gadgets - the computers and phones and Facebooks and Twitters and more - are actually rewiring our brains, altering the way we think and process and live. That we train ourselves to multitask, but that we cannot then turn our fragmented focus off.
These things scare me.
One section toward the end of the article called "The Toll on Children" alarms me most. The argument is that constant exposure to digital mediums is not good for children because their brains are particularly malleable, still developing. But you know what is also probably not good for children? Having a mother holed up in her study on a Wednesday morning wearing soundproof headphones banging madly on a keyboard when she could be down on the hardwood floor tickling and giggling and eating berries and soaking up the promise of a new day.
I know these things aren't black and white. I know. There are obviously upsides to the ubiquity of gadgets in our modern world, but in this moment, immersed in the words of a cautionary tale and in the wrong room of the house, I'm having a hard time seeing them. I sit here worried, genuinely worried, that by being here, by being so fluent in this digital discourse, my mind and life is evolving in a way I might not want it to be.
But what then? Turn it all off? This is not an option, is it?
In less than two weeks, the four of us are headed out of town on vacation. We will fish. We will frolic on beaches. And I can't wait. Because I am exquisitely exhausted and craving down time with my family. But the question that plagues me now is what about this place? This blog? This world? Do I bring it with me? Do I plug in when away? Do I keep things going? I don't know.
Maybe what would be best is breath. Distance. Digital detox.
I don't know. But I do know that I have not kept this short. No, I have gotten sucked in - to the screen, to the questions - like so often happens. I have spent the past fifty-one minutes in here when part of me, a very big part of me, wanted to be out there with my family. And so. Now I will hit publish and go.
But the worries? The fears? The murky realizations bobbing on the surface of my Wednesday morning consciousness? They will go with me.
- Do you ever worry about the effects of technology on you and your family?
- Do you think there is a way to keep use of gadgets in check?
- Should I detox over my upcoming vacation or keep plugging?