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What We're Reading - The Dark Side of Being Digitally Connected

Always being connected to the digital world has provided many benefits, but there's usually a price to pay with most technological advances.  Here's a look at what we're reading this week on the dark side of digital connectedness.

As a kid growing up around Southwest Florida in the 70s, when there was more nature than development, I was always on the lookout for poisonous snakes.   Red touch yellow kills a fellow was the rhyme to distinguish between the venomous coral snake and the harmless king snake.  It could get a little confusing, so see snake - run! was the better way to go.  But what really got to me about venomous snakes, was that the venom was used for the anti-venom.  How can something so terrible also be the cure or vice versa?

After growing up I've come to realize that many things in life tend to be both cure and venom or, more aptly, both good and bad.  As technology that allows us to be connected becomes more pervasive in our professional and personal lives, it's easy to see the good that results, but it's worth reading about the darker side too.  Maybe we can keep it under control.

On the Job

Being connected all the time allows us to work at any given time, which can also mean we can work all the time. This article in the Harvard Business Review outlines suggestions to break an addition to work, which is primarily enabled by our digital devices allowing us to always be on.

The average worker spends 28% of their day on email which is usually spread through out the day disrupting and making the other 72% much less productive.  Can't we just turn email off?  This Fast Company article takes a look at one company that decided to ban email on Fridays.  Has the program survived?

In Society

Author, Teddy Wayne, in the NY Times, writes about The End of Reflection.  Reflection takes time and deep thought but, in a world where a second-to-load a page is too long and a quiet moment on our own or even with others leads to a panic filled search for our phone, we no longer have time or desire to reflect.

In a review of the book, Reclaiming Conversations by Sherry Turkle, Jonathan Frazen writes about the eerily familiar, 

Turkle’s argument derives its power from the breadth of her research and the acuity of her psychological insight. The people she interviews have adopted new technologies in pursuit of greater control, only to feel controlled by them.  The likably idealized selves that they’ve created with social media leave their real selves all the more isolated.  They communicate incessantly but are afraid of face-to-face conversations; they worry, often nostalgically, that they’re missing out on something fundamental.

The Future

Sometimes fiction is the best way to look at ourselves and where we are headed.  The Circle, by Dave Eggers, looks at a near future world where everyone is almost always online and on web cam.  If all knowledge were transparent and equally accessible to all, wouldn't the world be better?  The Circle tries to answer this question through a young woman starting her dream job at a powerful (Google-like) company called The Circle. The founders of The Circle view the ability to see and know everything as powerful tools to improve government, improve health, reduce crime, increase commerce and provide many other benefits to society. However, the costs seem to be as high as the benefits.  They (users) begin to lose privacy and liberty through total transparency.  They lose a sense of self worth without the constant, immediate and positive feedback that texting, email, commenting, reviewing and social media permit and require.  Is a society that is always watched, heard, reviewed or read where we conform to the viewer's expectations better than one with privacy where we are truly ourselves?  It's not an easy question to answer.

The Funny

Finally, we leave you with one of my favorite commercials of the last few years that sums up the dark side in a very sardonic way.  You won't have to read this one.

 

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