A teacher friend of mine sent me a link to this story from the New York Times about how middle schoolers at Riverdale Country School recently went two days without texting as a sort of mental health experiment. I actually have some friends who went to Riverdale. Smart guys. But that's another story.
Reading the NYTimes piece made me feel what I've been feeling for months now myself: The always-on life style is addictive and utterly unhealthy (more like years, I'm sure my family would say). The first line of the piece resonated with me on a very personal - and very depressing - level:
Julia Sokoloff, 14, woke up around 8 on Sunday morning and reached for her phone the way hard-core smokers reach for their cigarettes, before they’re even fully conscious.
Julia, I'm with you: My name is Noah Kravitz, and I am an information addict.
I, too, reach for my phone first thing in the morning. All too often it's also the last thing I look at before going to sleep at night. I know that "checking messages is like drinking a can of Red Bull, relaxation-wise," to quote some article I read a long time ago. But I do it anyway.
Ironic that I love gadgets, cover technology for a living, and am speaking out against the smartphone lifestyle. But it's true. I have a huge self-control problem when it comes to checking Email, Twitter, RSS feeds, and most everything else on my phone. Tablet computers, with their big screens and easy to hold form factors are only making it worse. Reading stuff on iPad is so fun, I find myself wanting to do it for no good reason. I pick the thing up, check my messages, and then sit there in bed wondering, "Okay, what else can I look at?" It's not like there's specific information I'm after - it's more like I feel the urge to use the thing and then try to justify the act later.
Starting and ending the day in front of a little screen? Not good. In the morning I wind up distracted from my family, and switched into amped-up work mode way too quickly. At night I wind up unable to get to sleep because the glowing screen has infected my mind and body with negative energy of some sort or another. Honestly, it's a big drag.
Go read the article, even if you're not a kid and don't have kids of your own. Like any good "children's story," there's plenty in there for us adults, too. My favorite line from the piece?
Fewer than half of the 250 middle school students at Riverdale participated in the experiment, but Julia, for one, found it valuable. Among the revelations was the envious reaction of her father, who pointed at his own BlackBerry and told her, “I’d give anything to put this down.”
Smartphones are awesome. But like all good things, they're to be used in moderation. Right? What say you - is there such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to the always-connected lifestyle?