So you can read my books

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


We are creating and encouraging a culture of distraction

where we are increasingly disconnected from the people and events around us

and increasingly unable to engage in long-form thinking.

People now feel anxious when their brains are unstimulated.

We are losing some very important things by doing this.

We threaten the key ingredients behind creativity and insight by filling up all our “gap” time with stimulation.

And we inhibit real human connection when we prioritize our phones over the people right in front of us.

Are we losing our humanity?
In the pre-smartphone era we accessed the internet roughly five times per day, in longer chunks. Today, with smartphones, we’re accessing it 27 times a day.
The effect of all of this is that we’re increasingly distracted. Less and less able to pay attention to anything for what used to be reasonable length of times.

Numerous brain imaging studies have shown that what we call “multi-tasking” in humans, is not multi-tasking at all.

Your brain is merely trying to rapidly switch it’s attention between two tasks. Back and forth, as quickly as it can.

It’s shown not only that we’re dumber when we do this (an average of 10 IQ points dumber – that’s the same as pulling an all-nighter.),

but that we’re also 40% less efficient at whatever it is we’re doing.

We prefer to climb inside our devices than to live out in the world.
We screen our calls. We send 10 texts rather than make a one-minute phone call.
We don’t reply to emails. We cross to the other side of the street.
We stare at our phone in the elevator. We avoid making eye contact. We pray we’ll get their voicemail.
We hold the door-close button when we see them coming.

"Each step ‘forward’ has made it easier, just a little,

to avoid the emotional work of being present,

to convey information rather than humanity.”
~ Jonathan Safran Foer, How Not to Be Alone

R U friends 4 real?
Can "OMG—ROTFL" ("Oh my God! I'm rolling on the floor laughing!")
via text really convey the same amusement as hearing the giggles of a best friend?
New research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)—
and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill.
We meet fewer people. We gather less. And when we gather, our bonds are less meaningful and less easy.
The decrease in confidants—that is, in quality social connections—has been dramatic over the past 25 years.
In one survey, the mean size of networks of personal confidants decreased from 2.94 people in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004.
By 2004, 25 percent had nobody to talk to, and 20 percent had only one confidant.


  1. We are not losing our humanity - but throwing it away. And jumping on the pieces.
    Not all of us, not all the time - but too many of us, too often.

  2. Elephant's Child:
    I am afraid you are right. We do not treasure the precious gift of friendship or the healing that comes from one another in person.

    Thank you for being my friend. Being as far from one another as we are physically -- this cyber connection is all we can do. But I am the richer for it.

  3. I see now why you liked my simple country post. Yesterday, I met a newborn calf, it's mother, a very big cow, came up and licked my hand. That was very real and very beautiful.

    I couldn't agree with you more, this post is so true and I wonder what will become of everyone and their smart phones. And the poor slaughtered English language.

  4. Inger:
    You forgot the Llamas! And Samson. :-)

    I am afraid we insulate ourselves from the real world and live in cyber-space for so long that the people in our lives and their pains become unreal.

    I walk into my department at work and see everyone with their faces turned down to their smart phones, none of them aware of each other.

    I am the Norm (like CHEERS) of the place so that when I walk in they all shout out, "Roland!"

    It's nice to be recognized. :-)

  5. Smartphones have become an interface, as have ipods, Kindles.

    An I. Asimov book, 'Solaria', looked at this very idea, as the humans on Solaria retreated from human contact.

  6. I agree that is happening. The next generation of kids won't know how to interact in person. And nothing is ruder to me than trying to talk to someone who keeps looking at his phone, paying more attention to the person not there than the one standing in front of him.
    LG posted a link to a story that because of the speed reading and Internet, we are also losing the ability to read books and novels because we can;t process that much text at one time. Sad.

  7. D.G.:
    I believe interfaces are all right as long as they do not inhibit inter-personal growth and exchanges.

    We may be heading towards Asimov's SOLARI culture faster than we believe. :-(

    You have to consider quickly in a conversation, editing and pruning on the run. In texting, you can polish and reflect, texting what you think will be approved, giving a non-authentic version of yourself.

    LG may have a point. In the near future, we may all have to write mini-chapters like James Patterson to even have a hope of having someone willing to read our book.


    Last weekend, The New York Times' Jennifer Medina reported on the latest bizarre demand on campus:

    "trigger warnings" to let students know if the text they're about to study will expose them to some version of misogyny or homophobia,

    so they aren't unexpectedly traumatized by visions of things that can never be unseen – like, say, every novel written by a white man before 1960.

    That followed the public floggings of several commencement speakers whose invitations had to be rescinded, including such evildoers as

    former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,

    the International Monetary Fund's Christine Lagarde and

    Robert Birgeneau, the former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.

    Socially sanctioned intolerance is nothing new but it seems more gleefully accepted by the emerging generation.

    With the sudden explosion of cyberspace, we had the chance for stimulating exchanges of different viewpoints ... where both parties could be heard without attack.

    Only that's not what happened. Almost from the moment the first political blogs appeared, like-minded activists began to wall themselves off from any version of reality they didn't like.

    They set about building ideological silos in the space where virtual town squares might have thrived.

    It is all very sad.

  8. Funny you should link multi-tasking (in the negative) with creativity. I used to multitask pretty well, but the more time I spend writing, the less able I am to do it. I need to do ONE thing at a time.

    As for the smart phone, I think people ARE disconnecting and it's sad. I refuse to move my internet use to it. I love facebook and blogging and feel like I've made some real friends, but that is because when I'm there, I'm THERE. Barely there leads to thoughtless engagement, which can be trouble.

  9. Hart:
    From the studies I read, multi-tasking is really task switching. And every study I've read says that the more you do it, the worse your effectiveness gets. Ouch!

    FACEBOOK is visited by my co-workers, and I try to separate my writing from my work to keep the snark down.

    To enter a room full of people -- yet each one staring at their phones, unaware of those around them is somehow sadly eerie.

    You're right, of course. Whatever we are doing, we should be fully THERE.

    Really good to see you here. I am just off to work. You are one of my oldest friends here, and I miss you. :-)

  10. I've said it before "Alone in a crowded room."
    I don't own a smartphone. I use my cell phone to call my wife from the store to make sure I didn't forget anything on the list. One of my co-workers said they tried to Text me, and I didn't respond. I told him I only have a phone that calls in and out, but has no Text plan. I was looked at like I had some form of leprosy. I was just waiting for him to throw me out the gate and yell unclean!

  11. I watch the kids at my grandson's high school, sitting in a group but each focused on his smartphone instead of talking to each other.
    It's sad.
    And scary.

  12. David:
    Sorry about the lateness of my reply -- I've been caught up in the fire of words that needed to be typed -- 3000 words this evening! Whew!

    I've left Samuel and company in Paris by the Nile in 1895.

    Yes, we are alone in a crowd of folks staring at smart phones.

    I, like you, have only a phone that calls -- no texts or internet.

    And folks stare at me as if I were a caveman!

    It is the same where I work despite we are not to be on our private phones. I have a simple phone so I actually work where I work! :-)

  13. Not only are people more disconnected from each other, they don't understand that they're being rude when they constantly check their phones during conversations with the person right in front of them. They wear iPods when they're walking, running, doing anything anywhere. They're isolated and don't even seem to care.

    I've been expected to "multi-task" on my job, and of course that's a crock because it simply means doing several tasks poorly at the same time. Maybe this is yet another reason why I keep going back to writing and storytelling: It is a task that requires a quiet mind, no distractions, and lots of concentration.

  14. Helena:
    I sometimes think that it is not they do not they are being rude -- it is just that they are so self-focused that simply do not care.

    Sadly, you are right: there is no such thing as multi-tasking -- just task switching which produces lesser efficiency in each task. :-(

    Yes, I find writing fulfilling much more than dealing with rude, selfish folks!

    In fact, I got caught up last night writing so much that I had no time to write a new post!

    My friends were spared my prose! :-)