Introducing the Digital Diet
Plugged In, Checked Out
Before you stand on your soapbox (made of old video- game consoles or VCRs) and shake your fist in the air, please know that I'm not trying to stand in the way of the American dream of spontaneous consumption. I love technology and I always will. From Internet memes to video games, I've covered all things digital for more than a dozen years as a reporter for ABC News, CBS News, and CNN, to name a few, and I consider myself a proud geek at heart. But I've come to recognize that sometime in the last decade we've transitioned from being a culture that uses technology to being one that is completely absorbed by it. The sheer volume began to overwhelm us, and the swelling flood of gadgets and Web sites and doodads started to align into a force that invaded our lives.
The force hit, not like a nuclear explosion, but like the slow invasion of an ant colony. I've watched massive colonies of millions of army ants come to life at night in the jungles of Costa Rica. There is no noise, no perceived aggression, and not even a hostile undertone. They simply push forward and devour whatever is in their path. Now, is technology killing us like a wave of army ants? With a few exceptions, like distracted driving and mind- sucking YouTube videos, not literally. But it may be systematically, silently, and imperceptibly destroying parts of our lives that we hold dear.
It's time to look more deeply at our actions, to pull back for a time and then reshuffle our reliance on technology to make it work for us instead of the other way around. There's no turning back— the rate at which technology is infused into our lives will only accelerate. We need to accept that premise. Think of it like having to eat but empowering yourself to choose the best foods and mealtimes and following a steady exercise plan. The same goes for technology. The Digital Diet will help you turn yourself into a high- powered, high- efficiency communicator. This book contains a plan for slimming down the use of everything from gadgets to social networks to video games in the hope of making yourself healthier, happier, and whole in the twenty- first century. To accomplish this goal, we will explore better tech management, examine ways to streamline use of everyday devices like your smart phone, and heighten awareness of how technology affects our (real) lives and those around us.
Through a step- by- step, dietary- style approach, the Digital Diet will help improve your connections with the world around you and the people you love. It's about being present in the moment— the moments that matter— and having the tools to maintain that mind- set for a lifetime. You'll learn how an overdose of devices and services has harmed our overall health: physically, mentally, and emotionally. To combat those effects, I'll introduce gadgets and applications that can enhance our lives. It's about embracing the stuff that works and shedding the stuff that doesn't. Think of it as "computing POWER," being aware of what all this technology is doing to you and your family and having the tools to make smart choices and manage your digital intake in the future.
Believe me, it's not too late to change course. And if you know the problem is larger than just you, then the Digital Diet can easily be expanded to include your children or your spouse or other family members, too. There is strength in numbers. Will there be days when the Digital Diet falls apart? Of course. It happens to me and it will happen to you. There are days when I can't stand trying to limit my indulgence. And there are days when all my gadgets get the best of me. We're not cyborgs (yet). But just as you can eat that whole bag of sour cream–and–onion potato chips one night and opt for a chicken salad with pine nuts for lunch the next day, the same is true of the Digital Diet, since you can return to it after a lapse. It's a cumulative effect. A marathon, not a sprint.
"This book is brisk, lively, and smart. It's also deeply important: many of of us use technology too much, without realizing it. Sieberg has had his own problems with overuse and overload, and now he's emerged with a very sensible set of solutions for helping people restore balance to their lives. It's the rare diet book that might actually work."
-- Nicholas Thompson, Senior Editor, The New Yorker
"Anyone who thinks he or she doesn't need a digital diet is in denial. Daniel nails the sad truth of what our tech-triggered ADD has done to us and offers solutions for breaking away--and re-incorporating these same tools in a healthier, more meaningful way. If you've got your nose in your blackberry as you read this, this book is for you."
--Leigh Gallagher, Assistant Managing Editor, Fortune