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The Tyranny of Connectivity

[I've posted this before, but it seems an appropriate gift for readers during this holiday season]

Recently I decided to take a snow day. I had just completed a major project, and the prospect of going out did not entice. Over coffee, watching the blizzard, I happily made mental lists of books to read and articles to write.

Eight hours later I gave up.

In between, I rode the never ending wave of email, tweets, news feeds, text messages, etc. I was busy. I felt productive. But it was delusion. I kept up, but went nowhere.

Twenty years ago, I delighted in getting away. Once a boss complained that he couldn’t reach me when I was vacationing. “But it was a road trip,” I pointed out. “You wouldn’t have wanted me calling in from gas stations, would you?” He shrugged and never brought it up again.

Just try that now. Going away? Ha! It’s like you never left. Connected.

We are wired 24/7. It’s good. Connectivity empowers and enables. And it’s bad. Connectivity enslaves. Connectivity deludes and blinds. We get so much information that we know nothing.

I lived in Asia for many years back before the internet, when email meant going to the office, when newspapers in a language I could understand appeared only sporadically, when phone calls were expensive and inconvenient. Back then, I always knew what would happen next in the States. Clinton vs Bush? Obvious. GOP takes Congress? Predictable. Clinton re-election? Bet on it. Predictions could be made way in advance. I called the ’94 election in ’93, and the ’96 election in ’94.

Because with less information, the inevitable is obvious. When we focus on details, we miss the big picture.

We are swept along now in an ocean of too much information and can’t see past the next wave. Each little eddy seems like a tide, so we miss the the fact that all tides are being pulled by a massive gulf stream.

Here’s my New Year resolution: I will regularly unplug for a week. Or maybe occasionally for a day. Or maybe once for an afternoon.

Or maybe not. Connectivity is just so addictive!

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