Technology is both a blessing and a curse. Between cell phones and the internet, there seems to be both convenience and endless information at the tips of our fingers. However, as both Goodman and Dalton note we have become so obsessed with the efficiency we feel is gained through technology that our lives have become fragmented rather than connected. While technology may connect us via airwaves and satellite transmissions, the human connection is being lost. On sites like Facebook and Myspace we have “friends” whom we never meet; we email instead of picking up the phone when we have news; we text “I <3 U” but can't find time to say a simple “I love you.” We carry the illusion that technology gives us insight and access to the world but the world via technology lacks depth without real human interaction.
Goodman uses the example of conventional mail as a framework for her article, highlighting the impersonal hurriedness that comes along with email or texting as a means of communication. As she explains, in providing reason for choosing the regular mail over email as a means to send condolences to a friend who was recently widowed, “I would no more send an e-condolence than an e-thank you or an e-wedding invitation. There are rituals you cannot speed up without destroying them” (8). There are certain aspects of communication that technology cannot replace. By trying for efficiency technology can cut out one of the most important aspects of communication – namely, interaction. Despite the easiness of these new avenues for communicating with each other, which should for all intents and purposes encourage people to talk with each other at length, conversations are becoming more abbreviated and impersonal.
Goodman notes several solutions that are currently in play for some companies to reduce pervasiveness of “hyperactive technology” in the workplace. Among these is e-mail free Fridays (9) to encourage face-to-face interaction and induce creativity, new e-mail software that will help separate important emails from junk and personal email (9). Also noted are things individuals can do like waiting to reply to emails or using caller ID to screen unimportant calls. Most importantly is the example Goodman hopes to set with slowing down. She quotes former Microsoft employee, Linda Stone’s assessment that technology has caused people to suffer from “continuous partial attention” (8). The drawbacks of multitasking failing to accomplish in the long run any more that with people ending up “over stimulated, overwhelmed, and […] unfulfilled. Continuous partial attention inevitably feels like a lack of full attention” (8).
Dalton, as a clinical psychologist, see the full effect that this overload is having on people in the form of anxiety and depression disorders. While technology moves at a breakneck speed towards advancement, the human species can only adapt and evolve so quickly. As Dalton notes, “the blessing and curse of our era – has led many of us to tax the human body and psyche in ways that our species has not had time to accommodate” (404).
Technology has led not only to advancements in science or medicine but has also to an increase in human activity to compensate for the new time we are allowed. Dalton calls this “detaching ourselves from out natural rhythm” (405); human activity is no longer regulated by the rising and setting of the sun but instead the advancements of technology that allow the day to be broken into appointments and minor time frames. The lack of sleep that ensues from cramming as much into a day as possible is, Dalton believes, partially to blame for increases in mental illness and substance abuse. Even ADHD in children can be seen as contributable to this increase in activity, as children already predisposed to attention deficiencies will find their attention span further fragmented by the need to go, go, go.
Dalton's solutions are similar to Goodman in that they rely on inherent simplicity. Dalton notes the cheering effect of a simple conversation with a friend (407). Just taking the time to slow down and breath, to separate one self, even momentarily, from the onslaught of activity that is modern daily life is therapeutic. Sleep, though seemingly common sense, also takes on the role of therapy since Dalton sees sleep as one of the primary casualties of technology.
Part Two: Quiet Restorative Moments
Sunday is possibly the best day of the week to spend lazing around the house in pajamas, with a well-worn book of fairy tales, something already read and loved like a favorite movie. It’s relaxing to curl up onto the couch, with the fluffiest of throw blankets on a winter afternoon and to re-envision fantastical tales from childhood.
Nothing is more frantic than the attention of a child but at the same time, nothing is quite as restorative to an adult’s frame of mind than a child’s perspective. Simply to sit and speak to a small child on the subject of their choice, watching them react to their own ideas and bathing in the joy of their laughter is more effective than any anti-depressant or weeks-long sessions of therapy.
Walking in the woods, in early summer, when the leaves still have their newness - the green still carrying the slight haze of spring. The key is to have no real purpose other than an enjoyment of the sounds and sights that surround you; taking your time and following the less traveled path.
Sitting in a darkened room, alone or with others, listening to the sounds of a jazz saxophone and piano playing off the subtle nuances of each other. Whether live music or recorded, the importance lies in opening one’s ears to the effects while closing out the rest of the world.
Playing chess is possibly the ultimate restorative activity for me as it contains meditation within every action. Each strategy allows for another; the full realization of each move mentally before any action is taken allows for an ordering in a disordered world. I know if am to move this piece, my gains and losses will be such. There is no guessing because each movement causes a reaction, the key and appeal of the game is realizing the possibilities.
Dalton, Patricia. “We’re Only Human.” Read, Reason, Write: An Argument Text and Reader. Insert Edition. Ed. Dorothy U. Seyler. McGraw Hill: Insert Publication city, and publication date. 404-407.
Goodman, Ellen. “In Praise of a Snail’s Pace.” Read, Reason, Write: An Argument Text and Reader. Insert Edition. Ed. Dorothy U. Seyler. McGraw Hill: Insert Publication city, and publication date. 8-9.