Most of our devices work 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. Email apps sends us notifications round the clock to let us know that someone is trying to reach us. We have come a long way from the days when we were reliant on the natural cycles of light and dark to determine when to rise and when to sleep — digital devices are just the latest development in a process where we began to shape our environment and our routines with technology.
But devices that are 24/7 can suck us into to trying to do the same. In order to not respond to the newest notification on my phone I need to actively make a choice: do I ignore it? turn off notifications? set them up with a schedule to leave me alone at certain time? or just look at my phone to see who it is?
In the last few months I have been thinking a lot about the skills and knowledge that we need for the digital age. I’m not talking about technology skills, but life skills. In his book, Hamlet’s Blackberry, author William Powers observes that every new technology both solves problems and creates new challenges. He discusses the need, now that we are increasingly connected, to learn the art of disconnecting so we can deepen our both our real life and online experiences.
Disconnecting is not the only skill that we are now being challenged to learn. After a recent podcast interview that I did with Dr. Faye Mishna on cyberbullying and then witnessing several escalating email conflicts among colleagues, I am convinced that there are several new social skills needed to effectively manage relationships in the digital age, or at least the knowledge about where and when to apply skills in these new contexts. In addition, in my own struggles to work productively I realize that much of what I have struggled with recently has focused on figuring out how to effectively integrate technology into my work and personal life, and how to make sure that I, not the technology, am the one making choices about how and when to be connected. Continue reading