Don’t Blame Your Smartphone
At the Atlantic.com, Alexis Madrigal takes the New York Times to task for writing so much about our “addiction” to digital devices:
“I’ve got no problem with trying to figure out how devices or social networks should fit into one’s life, or even in recognizing that some of them have addictive feedback mechanisms as features, not bugs. But for crying out loud, some of these New York Times gadget addiction pieces need to recognize the role that The Great Speedup in the American workplace plays in keeping people tethered to their devices.”
Madrigal notes that Americans now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits, and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans. He continues:
“To elide that one of the reasons we spend so many hours in front of our screens is that we have to misses the key point about our relationship with modern technology. The upper middle class (i.e. the NYT reader) is WORKING MORE HOURS and having to stay more connected TO WORK than ever before. This is a problem with the way we approach labor, not our devices. Our devices enabled employers to make their employees work 24/7, but it is our strange American political and cultural systems that have allowed them to do so.
And worse, when [NYT reporter Matt] Richtel blames the gadgets themselves, he channels the anxiety and anger that people feel about 24/7 work into a different and defanged fear over their gadgets. The only possible answer becomes, ‘Put your gadget down,’ not ‘Organize politically and in civil society to change our collective relationship to work.’ Imagine if 19th-century factory workers blamed the clock for the length of their work days.” Read more here.
Very smart point—it’s easy for us to point to technology as the source of our difficulties, while missing the bigger social, political, and economic context.