Check It Out: Driven to distraction by technology

The pursuit of happiness drives Western society. And our obsession to find it often is propelled by the need to connect with the latest technology.

For example, thousands will stand in line for the latest gadget because it represents a recent step into our technological vision of our future. Some, however, will argue that our addiction to technological gadgets can also jeopardize our relationships, spirituality, and create a false sense of connection and empowerment.

The following books available at the Newport Beach Public Library support the notion that we must balance our lives and not allow technology to have such a powerful influence over them.

"Married to Distraction: Restoring Intimacy and Strengthening Your Marriage in an Age of Interruption" by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and Sue George Hallowell, LICSW with Melissa Orlov: Do you wish you had more of a connection with your spouse? Do you often mindlessly spend time "screen sucking," reviewing e-mail or surfing the web?

Edward Hallowell teams up with his wife to explain the subtle and dangerous toll technology can take on distracting people from their marriage. Using a mixture of humor, science, empathy and faith, the Hallowells address how you can improve your marriage through carving out uninterrupted time with each other and nurturing your relationship.

"Reboot: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World" by Peggy Kendall: This is a guide for people who question and recognize that it is often easier to e-mail, Facebook or blog one's personal information or moods rather than relate to people on a personal contact level.

Kendall advocates that we reflect on technology's impact on our daily lives and our spiritual life, as well. She demonstrates that our dependency on technological communication with one another can create fragmented relationships.

For example, Facebook can create "helicopter friendships" that only allow us to "hover" above people's texted situations on a lofty level, and not promote true connections to people.

"The Tyranny of E-Mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox" by John Freeman: Freeman asserts that despite the conveniences of electronic gadgetry, it is taking away time from personal interactions.

He claims that our fascination with using email, surfing the Internet, texting, blogging, tweeting, looking at YouTube, playing video games and talking on cell phones could also be time spent thinking, relaxing, enjoying our environment or chatting with friends and family. He believes our growing dependency on electronic communication creates a lifestyle in which we are constantly "on," which in turn can cause emotional and physical burnout, workplace meltdowns and unhappiness.

"The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom" by Evgeny Morozov: It is no secret that cyberspace can influence changes in political climates. For example, the insurrections in the Middle East were fueled by younger people communicating on Facebook to rally against their oppressive governments.

Journalist and social commentator Morozov points out, however, that although the Internet can create positive political changes, it can also empower divisive means. He reasons convincingly that people's freedoms can be abolished and constricted from the abuse of cyberspace.

"Alone Together: Why we Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other" by Sherry Turkle: One could argue that human relationships are blossoming like never before because of social networking sights like Twitter and Facebook.

But in this third book in a trilogy, MIT professor Turkle dissects the interface between humans and technology and sadly concludes that as technology lessens people's face-to-face contact with each other, we are becoming less connected to each other.

She suggests that deriving our connections with each other with texting, emailing and social networking promotes giving human qualities to objects and content, thus creating an environment where we treat each other as things. Her research observations and personal stories keep the reader engaged and emphasizes that we need to restrain ourselves from becoming technology's willing slave.

Progress of any sort is invigorating and exciting. But by balancing modern society's advances with personal aspects of our lives, we can remain more connected to the beauty of the simple and important things in life.

As Isaac Asimov aptly summarized man's advancement, "The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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