Editorial – Love Bytes

I love technology. I love the fact that MRI machines can provide astonishing images of the human body, helping physicians diagnose illnesses. I still marvel at the concept of air travel; as one comic puts it, ?sitting in a chair in the sky.?

And when it comes to communication, hook me up to high-speed and sign me in for web conferences and chat sessions. I get how useful these tools can be, and I love it.

But there’s another side to all this technology that I don’t get: people who happily allow themselves to become addicted to it.

It’s bad enough when employers demand 24/7 availability via cellphone and email, although sometimes It’s a necessity (especially if You’re the employee with the code to the safe or the pilot standing by to transport that donated kidney).

But how in the name of Gutenberg do people become so fixated on the constant feed of useless information that they can no longer function without it? And are they aware of when that subtle shift happens, when they stop using the technology and the technology starts using them?

It’s already proven that people can become addicted to their BlackBerries and cellphones. In one example, researchers noted that addicts would ?get up in the middle of the night and pick up messages on their PDAs two or three times a night.?

And now there’s Twitter, a micro-blogging app that lets users ?stay hyper?connected to [their] friends and always know what they’re doing.? In 140 characters or less, you can share every inane thought that pops into your head or every mundane action you perform?all day long, if you want. (Hopefully, the folks at Twitter get the absurdity of their claim that the app is ?a modern antidote to information overload.?)

Like pagers and cellphones and email before it, Twitter is already the techno-drug of choice for millions of people who get anxious if they haven’t had their fix for an hour. Or, in the case of microblogging, a few minutes.

The problem isn’t the technology. It’s useful and entertaining and all kinds of other wonderful adjectives.

The problem is, what happens when you can no longer bring yourself to turn it off? When the waiter leaves to put your order in and instead of talking to the person You’re dining with, your first instinct is to reach for your cell and check for the latest tweet. Or when the airplane is landing and for the entire 10 minutes your electronics are turned off, You’re fixated on whether you might be missing a call.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about the information superhighway we’re on isn’t how fast we can go or how much there is to see. Maybe the real trick to making it all work is remembering where the exits are.

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