Sunday, May 4, 2008

The OFF button

(greener every week)

I've written about this before, but after a particularly hectic week I started thinking about how difficult it can be to find the OFF button in the midst of modern connectivity. It takes a serious effort, I find, to unplug. And once unplugged, there's a niggling feeling that you're missing something. Some important message or update or question that only you know the answer to.

The feeling is exacerbated by the fact that you never really have to be alone anymore. If you're near a computer or have a mobile phone, you have people to talk to. Even if you don't actively call or instant message them, you are connected to them and only a message away. You know that someone is listening to you, wherever you happen to be. It's like a religious presence, but instead of a deity it's a buddy or coworker or family member.

I'm not the most connected person in the world, and as a relatively late (and passive) adopter of this lifestyle I wonder what it's doing to the participants. Will we ever face the void? Rather, will we ever understand what the void is? More prosaically, can we ever fully relax? 

I guess constant connectivity is nowhere more evident than when patrolling the library and observing college students (a daily activity for a reference librarian). I'm sure there's nothing to worry about. I'm sure that the OFF button only seems unachievable to those who haven't mastered the balancing act of using technology instead of being used by it. Maybe we'll all be better off by embracing the lifestyle of being plugged in 24/7, in fact, because the sooner we embrace it the sooner we can figure out how to manage it.  


  1. A related excercise that I find really cathartic: Take all the emails in your inbox, and delete them. It's not an "off" so much as a "reset", but it's along the right lines.

  2. That's why I love gmail -- I have 18 messages in my inbox and the rest are archived in outer space. So clean.