Several weeks ago, I wrote how students at Hofstra University in New York engaged in an entire week without any internet connection. It was stated that the “experiment” was to broaden the students’ perception of themselves in the world.
Over the Easter holiday, I spent time on the campus of the University of Michigan and had the opportunity to attend a class in the School of Information. Since older people, business leaders from the community were also present that afternoon, I fit in. The students presented information on studies they had made for several well-known internet businesses that served schools. I was interested in listening to their findings until I became distracted by the clatter of keyboards around me. I turned my attention from the stage to the students in the audience. They madly worked on Facebook, Youtube, and e-mail switching from one to the next as seasoned users unaware that I was observing them.
I went to lunch the next afternoon with a professor who is a specialist on database use. I mentioned my student observation of the previous day. “Yes,” she said. “They have an addiction.” She went on to relate how she has been studying the behavior and thinks that the students are unable to sit quietly with their own thoughts. Being plugged-in is a welcome distraction for them.
Tiffany Schlain, recognized by Newsweek as a force in twenty-first century thinking, an internet pioneer, a filmmaker, and founder of the Webby awards that recognize excellence in internet sites, thinks the answer to this dilemma of the internet as a distraction is to un-plug. She and her entire family un-plug for 24 hours each weekend. She states on her blog, “Five weeks ago, Ken and I started unplugging with the girls from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday for our technology shabbat. We tried this in the past, but now we’re taking it seriously. I am finding it profound. How big time feels. How expansive space feels. My mind is able to breathe in a way that it needs. I think we all need… and I definitely recommend trying it.”
Maybe we should all consider unplugging. What do you think?