Digital busyness is the enemy of depth.” — William Powers
I really couldn’t put it down. When Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age arrived last week, I promised myself I’d give it a quick glance and return to it later. (So many other books in my need-to-read stack!)
But I got hooked after the first few pages, then ended up dragging my chair closer to the fireplace, where I stayed and devoured several chapters until dinner time.
Here’s part of the review I wrote on Amazon.com:
In Hamlet’s Blackberry, author William Powers has managed to put into words all the vague feelings of disconnection and superficiality that I’ve battled ever since I began living and working behind a computer screen. Citing numerous studies and reputable sources, he articulates the emptiness many of us are experiencing — even if we’ve got hundreds of Facebook friends and followers on Twitter.
“The more connected we are, the more we depend on the world outside ourselves to tell us how to think and live,” Powers writes.
Powers nails it when he explains that what we’re missing today — what we long for — is depth. Depth in our relationships. Depth in our work. Depth in our daily activities. We’re skimming the surface of too many people and things; drowning in the shallow waters of over-connectedness.
But Powers offers a balanced view of this growing problem. In particular, I like the way he reminds us that technology is an incredibly useful and amazing tool. He’s not suggesting that we totally unplug and head for a lone cabin in the woods.
Instead, he approaches the topic as a philosopher and a humanitarian, asking us to examine WHY we’ve become reliant on our gadgets at the expense of deeper relationships and personal freedom. He asks us to consider WHAT is really dictating our lifestyle — the online “crowd” (as he terms it) or our inner compass? He invites us to reexamine creative folks throughout history who’ve accomplished masterpieces and major achievements — despite the various distractions of their time.
Most important of all, Powers’s writing style is crisp, clear, and direct, making it easier to digest difficult material from important philosophers, from Socrates to McLuhan. A surprisingly easy read, this is an important book and ought to be required reading. But those who need it most will probably dismiss it. Their loss.
For another excellent spin on this topic, read Melissa Joy King’s essay, “You Are Wasting More Time on Social Media Than You Think”