At Digital Hollywood this year, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with Flint Dille, game designer and writer who's brought complex worlds to life on the screen. Flint raised an interesting question this week while talking to Stuart Volcow's UCLA Transmedia class, about the possibility of a rising backlash against tech media and the sheer cerebral velocity of our lives. I joined the discussion when he moved it to Facebook. (Btw, checked your privacy settings lately?)
I, too, sense a rising resistance to life lived constantly connected and at cyberspeed. Several friends tell me they're getting off Facebook because they're tired of being bombarded with friend requests from people they "didn't like in 3rd grade and surely don't want to be friends with now." One respondent told Flint that she'd started "conducting periodic 'e-fasts', 'fasting' from all e-stuff (phone, e-mail, internet) for a few days at a time" which she reported to find tremendously refreshing.
Studies show, if you're trying to be creative, uplugging for a while is the right idea. An essay in today's NYT Book Review by Jennifer Schuessler says researchers found that when your brain is in quiet mode, undistracted (like when you're under an MRI scanner, for instance, yikes) the brain is in fact firing away, with greater activity in creative areas like autobiographical memory and conjuring fictional events. Ironically, quiet mode is the precise opposite of the setting in which most of our brains are trying to be productive.
Aren't you a tiny bit jealous of the guy you can't call because he doesn't carry around a cellphone? The friend you see only on Skype now and then because he's holed up in Istanbul writing the Great American Novel...on a typewriter?
It used to be that 24/7 connection meant status, but now I suspect that stepping away from the digital world for a while is becoming a luxury that privileged few can afford. Having people manage around you, without your having to conduct a cyberlife, is becoming akin to the royal option of shopping without carrying a wallet. Ironically, it may also explain why Bill Gates is only now discovering twitter.