Toward the end of the article, Jason writes:
I nearly burned myself out late last year with too much work, which was thankfully balanced out with a holiday vacation to another state where I spent a fair amount of time doing absolutely nothing.
The possibility that we’re collectively losing our ability to do nothing — to detach ourselves from all forms of work and recharge by reveling in the moment, whatever type of moment recharges us — is one of the topics Heather Menzies discusses in her book No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life. I started this book a couple of weeks ago, and I’m about half way through it, having decided to read it slowly and take notes on the ideas Menzies presents. Over the past year or so, I’ve been fascinated by the fact that the technology we’re becoming so immersed in begs us to ask some questions about how it’s affecting each of us and our lives — yet we barely ask those questions, or, perhaps, we don’t yet know how to ask them. We’re so linked in, always on, wired up and plugged up that even when we do try to detach, as Menzies notes, we’re seldom successful; or worse, we are successful but riddled with guilt over that success. That we might detach enough to reflect on technology’s effects is very nearly inconceivable.
Menzies was spurred to the idea of writing this book as she looked at her own life, and saw how for her — like many of her contemporaries — the connections among people that technology seemed to promise were actually creating disconnections instead. It is, I think, one of those crucial questions about technology that social scientists and historians together would do well to explore, particularly as our distance from the experience of every day reality seems to increase with the growing use of technology: to what extent are we withdrawing from human interaction as technology becomes embedded in our lives, and what is the significance of that withdrawal? My understanding is that Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community also takes on this subject, perhaps with even more to say about the relationship between technology and human interaction. Bowling Alone is the next book on my reading list.
Reading Menzies prompted me to search the web for the phrase "fragmentation of every day life" where I found that in the book Social Perspectives On Mobility, one of the authors writes about the effects of technology on family activities:
Instead of slowing down and gaining more time from new, faster technologies, the family crams more activities into everyday life. Having time on your hands becomes an important signal [about] which kind of everyday life the individual has. The traffic jam for the car driver becomes a time thief that does not comply with the signal of freedom the car driver wishes to send….
I remember that when I read "having time on your hands" how it sounded like a completely foreign concept: it jolted me to realize that I had to stop for a second and think about what it even meant. I was equally jolted by Menzies’ discussion of dreamless sleep, how researchers are finding that more and more people are sleeping not just less but differently than they used to, reporting that they never remember enough of their dreams to know if they’re even having any, their brains never "idling" enough to enter the state where dreams take place. I’ll come back to that later; it’s one of the most interesting parts of Menzies’ book so far — personally interesting, I think, because I can’t remember the last time I had a dream or recall having a dream, and I’ve even wondered now and then why that’s been happening. Dreams, it seems, are something of an organizing activity for the mind, something that helps commit our waking or mental experiences to different segments of our memory for use later; and while I always thought that dreams served a purpose like that, until reading what Menzies has to say about them, it never occurred to me that it was significant that I could no longer remember any.
To be continued…..