A Counter-Swing?

Let the pendulum swing.
Let the old guard surrender
It is a new day, a new world…

Lyrics and music by Steve Wood and Julia Loggins, recorded by Kenny Loggins.

No Cell Phone

The ABA Journal on Aug 23, 2010 released an article entitled: A Law Prof Explains Why He is a Cell Phone Luddite.

The article starts with this statement:

Some high-profile professionals are ditching their cell phones, giving them more power over their time and eliminating distractions that interrupt their work and their relationships.

Having experienced a period of time this summer effectively ‘off the grid’ where I was outside the range of any cell, Blackberry or internet signals, this article caught my attention. I have to say that I discovered my steel 6 string anew. Felt great!

It seems that Law Professor Afsheen John Radsan is not alone in ‘unplugging’. Warren Buffett and others are discovering life without a cell phone. Other professors are banning laptops from classes. Certainly most of us have experienced the annoyance of people reading emails on their iPhones or Blackberries in the midst of meetings when they should be concentrating on the matters at hand. Could it be that the pendulum is now swinging back the other way? Or is this just another example of the ‘digital divide’ between the generations – the old guard surrendering and giving up on their devices rather than trying to live in an increasingly-digital world? And can it really be done? While Warren Buffett may not carry a cell-phone, I would imagine that someone in his entourage is carrying one, should he have the urge to check on his investments.

Indeed it is one thing to ‘unplug’ and relax for a couple of weeks, but is it really practical today to become a luddite? Can you reclaim your life and re-focus on your priorities this way? Or is this just another example of the old guard surrendering to the fact that this is a new day, a new world – one increasingly filled by people to whom technology is not a tool – it is a way of life?


  1. I suspect you are a greta essay writer, David. Your last line expertly summarizes this experience, and at the same time, launches the debate for more input. I have resisted the temptation of the blackberry for years, yet I am drawn to the new Torch… This phenomena of digital communication is a way of life. It has become a cultural identifier and medium unto itself. There is no way to professionally operate a major business of any kind these days without this technology. The industry itself has adapted and accepted the switch. The “Rubicon” has been crossed, there is no going back now. We are, whether ready or not, plugged in to the future.

  2. As the previous commenter, Chris, stated, “digital communication is a way of life”. This is true and I believe it is not a matter of choosing a plugged vs unplugged lifestyle. I think that is an attention seeking statement on the part of the individual. I believe that people have not yet fully adapted to learning how to manage digital communication as it exists today with the other very important aspects of their lives – essentially creating personal policies and standards for themselves.

    I love what digital communication brings to me but I also value including unplugged time to read or write uniterrupted or spend quality time with my family and friends. I just manage accordingly. It’s the same principles of time management that were in existence before always connected smartphones came on the scene.

  3. David J. Bilinsky

    Chris and Sameer:

    I agree with your comments. The Rubicon has indeed been crossed. But we don’t have a cultural paradigm – yet – on how to integrate – or not integrate – the whole digital experience into how we operate socially, professionally and personally. The technology ends up taking over our time, priorities and lives.

    I am also concerned about the loss of privacy that goes along with greater technology. Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” learned about this the hard way in:
    Web Photos That Reveal Secrets, Like Where You Live.

    So along with the blurring of the lines that technology brings, there is the loss of privacy that seems to be almost inevitable with the continual ‘improvement’ of devices. Yikes!

    I so identify with the Eagles lyrics: “They stabbed it with their steely knives but they just can’t kill the beast”.

  4. There’s no one correct way to manage our digital lives, so the fact we’re discussing different approaches helps everyone. Think about Stephen Covey, or the 4-hr work week, and how those ideas made people reconsider blocking off regimented hours for handling email.

    So discussion is good, but unplugging entirely? That’s hiding. If you’re Warren Buffett, that’s also a luxury. Do we honestly think Warren has everyone in his entourage unplugging? I’m sorry, he’s rich and delegating.

    This doesn’t excuse the need to be polite and give people your undivided attention during meetings. Nor does it take away our need to unplug. I do it myself on vacation, and consider it a necessity. But this isn’t an all or nothing decision, and moderation is healthy. Dropping all digital contact with the world permanently? is either ignorant or irresponsible.