Monday, December 26, 2011

"The Digital Diet" by Daniel Sieberg

TITLE: The Digital Diet: The 4-step plan to break your tech addiction and regain balance in your life
AUTHOR: Daniel Sieberg
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2011, (272 pages).

Digital addiction. The ubiquitous Internet has led to an insatiable thirst for WiFi, digital information, and an unending need to be connected online. Daniel Sieberg calls this 'tech addiction.' He writes:

"Technology has overwhelmed our daily lives to the point of constant distraction. Many of us can no longer focus on a single task or face-to-face conversation without wanting to reach out - or retreat - to the virtual world every few minutes." (Back cover)

Proposing a four-step strategy to break the digital addiction, Sieberg aims to help readers regain a semblance of human normalcy, to win sensibility back from an online virtual world to an offline reality.

Step 1 is Re:Think. Before one can change, one needs to acknowledge the current condition. Here Sieberg exposes the dangers of being addicted. When one is plugged-in, one essentially checks out of the real world. There is also an unhealthy 'binary binge' where one consumes digital units without regard for one's general physical, mental or emotional health. Using the language of body diets, Sieberg warns us about letting technology 'fog' out our minds, creating an unhealthy 'e-obesity' where we consume technology without observing limits, and other environment problems that result from always on technology devices.

Step 2 is Re:Boot which begins a series of detox steps. He suggests practical steps like putting our gadgets into a box periodically in favour of something old-fashioned. By listing down the different technologies, one starts to distinguish between devices that are for communications and those that are for preparing daily essentials like oven, refrigerators, etc. The key is to give ourselves a fresh start to welcome nature, be open to real people, and to basically detox ourselves from digital madness. Suggestions are also made for discovering our own 'virtual weight index.'

Step 3 is Re:Connect which lists more practical exercises to take. From simple things like gazing at a tree to physical exercises, Sieberg encourages readers to learn to 'subtract' non-essentials. Often, technology contains too many fancy gizmos that we do not really need. Part of this subtraction exercise is to help us differentiate the needs from the wants.

Step 4 is Re:Vitalize. At this point, one is ready to move from an inorganic addiction to a more wholesome and natural organic lifestyle. He ends with ten digital rules to note.

  1. Avoid tech turds: by NOT placing our technological gadgets at prominent places, (eg leave phone in your pocket when at a restaurant dinner table.)
  2. Live your life in the real world: avoid posting personal updates too readily until you are willing to interact non-digitally with the people in front of you. (eg talk to your companions in front of you more than the distant person on the phone)
  3. Ask yourself whether you really need that gadget: not everything digital is a must-have. 
  4. Seek tech support: if necessary, outsource the use of the digital device
  5. Detox regularly: tackling digital addiction is an ongoing exercise to be done on a regular basis.
  6. Sleep device-free: Have a safe haven from the reaches of technology.
  7. It's either the human or the device: make an intentional choice of people over gadgets.
  8. Remember the 'if/then' principle:  how we treat our digital addiction affects the way we treat the real world.
  9. Structure your e-day: plan our daily consumption of technology
  10. Trust your instincts: pursuing our ultimate goal in balance and awareness.
My Comments

Manage technology before technology manages us. The longer we stay in addiction, the harder it is to break from it. Learn from those who have experienced technological burn-out. It is important to ensure that we are able to function normally as human beings. For all its wonders, technology cannot fully replicate the way we live as human beings. We cannot hug a computer and feel any emotional warmth. Neither can we build relationships only through an Internet connection. More often, the way to sustaining a positive and fruitful human relationship is to relate at a human level. Recognize that technology can only help us so much. Remember that technology is a tool, not the ultimate. 

This book is practical, helpful, and necessary in an increasingly connected world. Although the book is planned as a 28-day detox program, it can be easily modified to fit our own schedules. The important thing is not the specific steps. The important thing is to recognize the NECESSITY to take a break from our digital world, and to reconnect with people in the real world. Yes, we can Facebook. We can twitter. We can even depend on traditional emails. Yet, the human being cannot be easily digitized. As engineers, scientists, and technologists increasingly try to make the computer behave like a human, if we are not careful, we are in danger of making humans become like a computer. This book is one such book that speaks against this trend. 

Ratings: 4 stars of 5.


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