Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

Is Digital Technology Making Life Better . . . or Worse?

Is digital technology making your life better . . . or worse? Is work invading your personal life, if you have a personal life left? Is your personal life interrupting your work, making you more distracted and less effective?

A recent story in the New York Times wrestles with questions like these, offering a variety of answers. Here’s how “Who’s the Boss, You or Your Gadget?” begins:

GIVEN the widespread adoption of smartphones, text messaging, video calling and social media, today’s professionals mean it when they brag about staying connected to work 24/7.


Technology allowed Karen Riley-Grant, a manager at Levi Strauss in San
Francisco, to take care of some business with her New York publicist
while she was in labor in the hospital last November. “I had time on my
hands,” she says, and “full strength on my phone — five bars.”

It once enabled Craig Wilson, an executive at Avaya in Toronto, to take
his children to a Linkin Park concert and be able to duck out to finish
a task for a client in Australia, he says, “without disruption to my
family commitment or my work commitment.”

Does this encourage you . . . or horrify you? Or something in-between? Does the gain in work make up for the loss in being in the moment?


The article adds:

But all of this amped-up productivity comes with a growing sense of
unease. Too often, people find themselves with little time to
concentrate and reflect on their work. Or to be truly present with their
friends and family.


There’s a palpable sense “that home has invaded work and work has
invaded home and the boundary is likely never to be restored,” says Lee
Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center‘s Internet and American Life Project. “The new gadgetry,” he adds, “has really put this issue into much clearer focus.”


Robert Sutton, a professor at Stanford weighs in:

The good news about technology, he says, is you can be anywhere and
still work. The bad news, he says, is that “anywhere you are, you have
to work.”

Too much connectivity can damage the quality of one’s work, says Robert Sutton, author of “Good Boss, Bad Boss
and a professor at Stanford. Because of devices, he says, “nobody seems
to actually pay full attention; everybody is doing a worse job because
they are doing more things.”


Mobile devices and social media, he says, “make us a little more
oblivious, a little more incompetent.” Just recall those pilots who overshot their destination two years ago because they were using computers, he adds.

“The emotionally compelling nature of the device and live information it
carries — and the intermittent reinforcement it carries, plus the
pressure of living in a world where for many people ‘immediately’ now
really means immediately — causes people to be entranced by their
devices and to ignore real life as it unfolds in front of them,”
Professor Sutton says.

The article contains several examples of people trying to balance the demands of work and personal life in a technology-permeated world.

What do you think? Is technology allowing us to live with greater freedom? Or is it turning us into digital slaves? Are digital media enriching your life? Or are they impoverishing it? Or both?

  • Bill Goff


  • Bill Goff

    My answer to your last question is “both”. I tried to leave just the one word, but your diligent digital screening technology would not let a single four-letter word through the system.

  • Bill Goff

    Oops. Now I see that your screener relented and allowed my initial response. Does your digital screener go by the name “Hal”?

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Bill: I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me, too. If the answer is “both,” and I agree with you, then we have the responsibility of making wise choices about how best to use (and not to use) the technology available to us.

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  • Judy McCleary

    I am concerned about the effect of relationships as many do not understand a balance between work, quiet time and also good old fashioned talking. Tech society of today can control their lives with a push of a button and everything becomes instantly available or gone. As I watched a little boy at the restaurant last week try to get his “cell phone addicted” dad’s attention for a long time and then give up, I saw a child’s broken heart and a detached father.

  • Kathy

    I say “both” in answer to your question. On another subject, just thought you’d like to know that the Bookies are attacking your book “Jesus Revealed” – and it’s even better the second time around. Charles Huegy is leading the discussion. Best………….k

  • Marcus Goodyear

    I’m going to buck the trend. I think technology is going to turn us into slaves… for a time. Too much change has happened too fast for us to really process what is happening.
    Things seem to be slowing down somewhat though. I am hopeful that will give us humans a chance to catch up with the technology, so we can learn how to engage with it appropriately.
    The good news is that print went through the same period of chaos after the invention of the movable type press. Clay Shirky says it took 200 years for information to flow smoothly again. Hopefully we can do things a little more quickly this time around, without burning quite so many people at the stake.

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