Alexis Madrigal sighs, "Another day, another New York Times story about technology addiction." He's pointing to a Matt Richtel article about concerns about technology addiction-- right in the heart of Silicon Valley.
The concern, voiced in conferences and in recent interviews with many top executives of technology companies, is that the lure of constant stimulation — the pervasive demand of pings, rings and updates — is creating a profound physical craving that can hurt productivity and personal interactions.
“If you put a frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat, it’ll boil to death — it’s a nice analogy,” said Mr. Crabb, who oversees learning and development at Facebook. People “need to notice the effect that time online has on your performance and relationships.”
Okay, first of all, yes it's a nice analogy, but the whole "frogs in pots of cold water don't notice that they're boiling to death when the heat goes up" thing is wrong. Try it yourself. See what happens.*
Second, where the Hell else is this kind of concern going to manifest itself? The people who are going to be worried about the downsides of being plugged in are… wait for it... people who are plugged in.
Everyone I interviewed for my book chapter on digital Sabbaths is an engineer, a professor, a writer, a consultant, a Web developer-- in other words, people who are seriously wired, and need to be to work. (They also, as Madrigal would point out, tend to work in industries that value overwork, and the perception of busyness). You wouldn't expect Buddhist monks to worry about these issues. (And indeed they tend not to, but because they have a very sophisticated, self-empowering view of attention and distraction. See chapter 3 of my book, or my TedxYouth talk.)
Third and finally, let me just quote this article:
In an era when the boss wants us available 24/7, and when the high priests of the new economy bombard us with ubiquitous marketing messages, some burnt-out survivors are taking another look at their cell phones, pagers, home satellite dishes and "constant connectivity" to the Internet….
"We seem to have no way to put a human handle on our ingenuity," he says. "Between 80 and 90 percent of the messages we get every day are marketing messages, designed to make us feel incomplete. This is having a terrible effect on our inner landscape."
This is from 2001. It's the first instance I can find of the use of the term "digital sabbath." Which is not to say that this conversation is unimportant, but that we've been having it here for some time.
*Spoiler alert: you'll end up with a terrified / pissed off live frog and water all over your stove.