In my last post I linked to a book review of Shelly Turkle’s Alone Together in which I questioned her assertion that in the age of paper, people didn’t read off-task documents during meetings. Afterwards, I received the following email from my dad, who’s been in business settings for far longer than I’ve been alive:

Turkle is right.  It was socially unacceptable in the world of paper for someone to read their printed email or other documents during a meeting.  Bored or not, your attention was required and you couldn’t/wouldn’t take out something to read during the meeting.  We’ve had a massive etiquette breakdown in the move to mobile.  People view their time as more valuable than the time of everyone else put together.  “I don’t care what you want to talk about I am going to ignore you and do what I think is important”.

What do you think? What’s your experience with this? Are we romanticizing the past, or has there been a massive breakdown in etiquette?

Up next: I’m currently reading The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. After Turkle, I’m enjoying a more scientific approach to the topic.

The Good Old Days

This concept has been on my mind as I explore the idea that technology lessens our relationships, hurts our brains, and brings a whole host of other negative impacts. Randall Monroe of the webcomic XKCD lets the primary sources speak for themselves:


I don’t think we should ignore the potentially negative impacts of progress and technology. We should examine their impacts, implement tools intentionally, and be mindful of how we are affected. But let’s stop talking about the “good old days.”