A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age
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A deconstruction of the notion that total connectedness brings happiness—or even productivity—and a concise guide to navigating social technology without sacrificing the personal or professional interactions that draw us there in the first place.

Former Washington Post staff writer Powers argues that space (from connectedness) and balance (within it) are the most integral tenets to maintaining sanity within the increasingly plugged-in world. Since 2000, he writes, “the total number of mobile phones in the world went from about 500 million…to about 5 billion today.” The author dubs this idea of continual connectedness “Digital Maximalism,” a phenomenon that is “encouraging the unhealthy extreme, the digital equivalent of alcoholism.” To frame his argument, Powers looks at seven renowned intellectuals and the historical movements to which they are pegged. These include Plato, and the need for occasional distance from the crowd; Gutenberg, and the idea that technology can be utilized to reflect inwardly; Franklin, and the benefit of establishing positive rituals; and Thoreau, whose Walden Pond experiment resulted in the valuable notion that solitude is a necessary part of sustaining a social existence. These ideas are echoed in the author’s argument that serial focus results in less depth of experience, because endless screen time precludes true introspection. The author also asserts that it’s not too late to effect positive changes in our digital habits. He proposes easy modifications like Internet-free weekends, vacations without cell phones, eschewing smart phones to eliminate the temptation to check e-mail when not at a computer, or blocking office workers from accessing e-mail for an hour or two per day. Despite the obviousness of such suggestions, it’s the philosophy behind them that brings about positive and habitual change, and the author has found that, not surprisingly, routine is the key to success.

Provides few new insights, but the book is interestingly packaged.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-168716-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2010


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