My colleague keeps dozens of computer windows open at once. On her desk sits an office phone, two cell phones, a computer, an iPad, and a television. She's a digital hoarder and is constantly in a state of agitated response to those that demand her attention. And she's not alone. We're all still getting used to life in the digital age. Decades ago, media theorist Marshall McLuhan asked, "How are we to get out of the maelstrom created by our own ingenuity?" That question is even more relevant today, as technology has become a ubiquitous presence in our lives.
In his book Hamlet's Blackberry, author William Powers gives us tips from the pages of history for navigating the virtual world with grace. Here are my favorites:
- Roman philosopher Seneca chose a single idea to focus on each day -- a theme for the day. Though we're constantly bombarded by information and images, we can simplify to some extent by working in one computer window at a time, or at least on a single gadget at a time.
All tools take time to master. It's still the dawning of the digital age, and Powers reminds us that now is the time to find a healthy balance "between connected and disconnected, crowd and self, the outward life and the inward one." By learning from yesterday's teachers, maybe even screen addicts like my coworker can enjoy a healthier digital life.
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