In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight….
We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And — as he might also have said — we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.
Iyer talks about friends who've taken up yoga, digital sabbaths, or sports that take them out of cellphone range or into environments that are unsafe for ordinary consumer electronics (sailing, for example). He himself goes on retreats on a regular basis, even though he says "it's vital"
to stay in touch with the world, and to know what’s going on; I took pains this past year to make separate trips to Jerusalem and Hyderabad and Oman and St. Petersburg, to rural Arkansas and Thailand and the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima and Dubai. But it’s only by having some distance from the world that you can see it whole, and understand what you should be doing with it.
I think this last point is really critical. Connectivity and silence, collaboration and contemplation, sociability and solitude, are not opposites, and we shouldn't think that we should choose between one and the other. Rather, they're like food and water, or parents and children. Each is essential; they're different but not mutually exclusive. The great challenge is to find places for them all, and to know how to use them.