Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.


Little, attractive beasts

Q: We've got Blackberries. And iPhones and Droids and notebook computers and Google. They help make us more successful! Don't they?? The new book "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains" says the Internet impairs our ability to think long and hard. Do you agree? And if so, does the added productivity justify a little Internet-inspired attention-deficit disorder?

Sometimes, as Peter Finch noted in Network, I feel " ... as mad as hell and I am not gonna take it anymore!"

I am, perhaps, listening to someone in a meeting and my iPhone dings. I stealthily lower the little beast into my lap to find a text message from a friend who caught a noteworthy rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay or witnessed a hole in one at some golf course. I am getting information immediately that could wait until a New Year's Eve party. I look at the message and then try to remember what was on the table for discussion.

These little devices are metaphorical/ allegorical sexy beasts to which we become seductively enslaved and hopelessly addicted. I routinely see college kids texting and laughing while walking down the street.

Ahh ... a solution may be that these beasts -- and Sons of Beasts -- merely need a warning from the FCC. Such as: " Devices like this have been known to lead to massive distractions resulting in motor vehicle accidents, anxiety and general emotional discomfort."

The government will surely save us. Like alcohol, tobacco and firearms, we must use them responsibly. All can lead to fatalities. Alcohol and these beastly little phones truly do share one thing: They both can lead to far more information than one needs!

I, of course, would not go anywhere without an iPhone. While on the way to Manhattan on Amtrak, I can check my emails and make instant contact with anyone, virtually anywhere.

Recently I had a call from Vietnam, where I am helping to remove ordnance remaining from an era when the USA was quite involved there militarily (www.vvmf.org). I got an email on my phone and told the guy to call. A few minutes later, astoundingly, I was conversing with someone 12,000 miles away who was attending a party at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, of all places.

When I am doing something that really requires concentration, like writing, I take my cell phone and turn it off. Writing and problem solving requires sustained mental effort. The Instant Internet on our phones is too much, too quick, and indeed impairs our ability to think long and hard. How can you?

As Dave Barry wryly noted, "I am not the only person who uses his computer mainly for the purpose of diddling with his computer."

By Jan Scruggs  |  July 21, 2010; 9:03 PM ET  | Category:  Technology and success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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