The Single Incident
I was asked recently during lunch with a meeting planner what single incident inspired me to research and write The Impact of Technology on Behavior & Happiness. Since that was a new one — I had never been asked that one before — I had to think about the answer. A vivid, colorful slide show flashed across my brain’s movie screen: oblivious walking texters; ill-behaved children clamoring to be placated by video gizmos in restaurants; weaving highway drivers and those who never move when turn lane arrows change green; rising campus suicides; the noticeable rise in digital addiction and decrease in attention spans; kids being crushed by cyber-bullies….the images kept coming.
The seed for this book was planted nearly 20 years ago when a co-worker overwhelmed by worry due to changing technology did something tragic, which I detail in The Impact. Technology was a mystery word at that time, far from today’s ubiquity. I did not realize at the time how this single tragic event would rise up like a waking dragon and spit fire nearly 20 years later.
I have been working with adults in corporate classroom settings for nearly three decades and have studied behavior for nearly four. I am a student of impact factors and I can share this with certainty: Nothing has changed behavior in my lifetime more than technology.
In business settings attention spans keep dwindling while cell phone addiction keeps growing, noticeably and alarmingly so. Young adults know no other life than being mesmerized by ever-shrinking video screens. Boomers get addicted too, and simply engage at a slower pace.
But what was the trigger event that caused me to write the book? Did it come while walking through an airport, where more than half the people I passed by had traded one of the world’s top five people-watching locales for bent-neck staring at a screen? Or was it on an airplane, where phones are activated with coach class choreography even before the wheels touch down? Or was I inspired during an hour-long walk with the dogs, when virtually everyone we passed was engaged in one way or another with his or her cell phone?
I wrote The Impact 18 months after deciding the time had arrived to figure out why these things were going on. The reason it took that long was the mountain of questions and haystacks of answers that revealed the connecting puzzle pieces that came once I dove down the rabbit hole. It did not take long to realize I had entered a labyrinth of interconnecting tunnels that made the London subway system seem like a fifth grade science project.
Looking back, I guess the trigger moment came when I spoke on this topic at M.I.T.’s graduate school Media Lab. Usually their guest speaker series draws a couple dozen interested students and faculty. Two and a half times that many showed up to hear what I had to say. “Clearly heads are crowded,” I thought. “There is a definite need for explanations and answers.”
My knowledge and work around the world concerning the subject of Worry interconnects to the head management awareness a prudent person should have to protect himself or herself from the downside of digital immersion. Heads need to be protected, fortified castles. Too many are messy open bars.
Read this. Learn this. Share this. The time has come to protect yourself and those you care about.
After all, “If you don’t look out for you….who will?”
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