- People multitasking with their mobile phones
- New York Times - YOUR BRAIN ON COMPUTERS - Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Price
Excerpt: No Vacations
For spring break, the family rented a cottage in Carmel, Calif. Mrs. Campbell hoped everyone would unplug.
"But the day before they left, the iPad from Apple came out, and Mr. Campbell snapped one up. The next night, their first on vacation, “We didn’t go out to dinner,” Mrs. Campbell mourned. “We just sat there on our devices.” Multimedia
Interactive Feature A Multitasker's Perspective
Interactive Feature Test Your Focus
Slide Show Juggling the Screens
Graphic Warning Signs of Technology Overload Related
An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness (June 7, 2010) Your Brain on Computers: More Americans Sense a Downside to an Always Plugged-In Existence (June 7, 2010) Readers' Comments Matt Richtel will answer questions from readers. If you have a question for Mr. Richtel please post it in the comments section of this article. Post a Comment » She rallied the troops the next day to the aquarium. Her husband joined them for a bit but then begged out to do e-mail on his phone.
Later she found him playing video games.
The trip came as Mr. Campbell was trying to raise several million dollars for his new venture, a goal that he achieved. Brenda said she understood that his pursuit required intensity but was less understanding of the accompanying surge in video game.
His behavior brought about a discussion between them. Mrs. Campbell said he told her that he was capable of logging off, citing a trip to Hawaii several years ago that they called their second honeymoon.
“What trip are you thinking about?” she said she asked him. She recalled that he had spent two hours a day online in the hotel’s business center.
On Thursday, their fourth day in Carmel, Mr. Campbell spent the day at the beach with his family. They flew a kite and played whiffle ball.
Connor unplugged too. “It changes the mood of everything when everybody is present,” Mrs. Campbell said.
The next day, the family drove home, and Mr. Campbell disappeared into his office.
Technology use is growing for Mrs. Campbell as well. She divides her time between keeping the books of her husband’s company, homemaking and working at the school library. She checks e-mail 25 times a day, sends texts and uses Facebook.
Recently, she was baking peanut butter cookies for Teacher Appreciation Day when her phone chimed in the living room. She answered a text, then became lost in Facebook, forgot about the cookies and burned them. She started a new batch, but heard the phone again, got lost in messaging, and burned those too. Out of ingredients and shamed, she bought cookies at the store.
She feels less focused and has trouble completing projects. Some days, she promises herself she will ignore her device. “It’s like a diet — you have good intentions in the morning and then you’re like, ‘There went that,’ ” she said.
Mr. Nass at Stanford thinks the ultimate risk of heavy technology use is that it diminishes empathy by limiting how much people engage with one another, even in the same room.
“The way we become more human is by paying attention to each other,” he said. “It shows how much you care.”
That empathy, Mr. Nass said, is essential to the human condition. “We are at an inflection point,” he said. “A significant fraction of people’s experiences are now fragmented.”