If you’re like me, your smartphone has become your boss. More than I care to admit, I am barraged by an onslaught of pings, and I find myself obsessively checking (if not chasing) every text, email, tweet, Facebook status and myriad updates I get throughout the day.
Unplugging is the answer for some. But not everyone. I’ll share a coping tip: The book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now,?by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, has changed my life. With great insight, the author explores how being always on (always connected) affects our behavior, our politics, our economics and our culture. Have you noticed in your own life how your priorities of the current moment seem to be everything there is?
The paradox of our digital age is that when we diminish everything that isn’t happening right now, we are remarkably non-present. There’s no question, with smartphones grabbing our attention at any moment, our relationship to time has changed. We actually have a false sense of the “now” that is both disorienting and energizing.
With Present Shock, Rushkoff delivers genuine wisdom, in that he neither wholly condemns nor wholly celebrates the powerful 21st-century technology that permeates modern life. Nor does he reduce people to mere passive objects, with our technological tools making us impulsive, impatient, anxious “now surfers.”
Rushkoff explained to Fast Company how the “futurism” era of looking forward has seemingly ended. In that interview he notes, “The panicked reaction, what I’m calling present shock, is to mistake the incessant demands of the now for the real moment you should be inhabiting.”
With wit and honesty and a keen eye for what is really happening in our lives, Rushkoff invites us in the book to take responsibility for what we are choosing to do to (and with) one another through technology.
And ultimately, he makes a point that genuinely haunts me: “Whatever is vibrating on the iPhone just isn’t as valuable as the eye contact you are making right now.“
Irwin Kula is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Irwin’s writing has been featured in The Huffington Post and the Washington Post. He is the author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life and a co-editor of The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices. Irwin has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The O’Reilly Factor and PBS Frontline. Irwin also serves as President Emeritus of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.