The Mario Blog
That elusive total digital disconnect

TAKEAWAY: I confess: it is terribly difficult to quit our digital addictions cold turkey

TAKEAWAY: I confess: it is terribly difficult to quit our digital addictions cold turkey

blog post image
Lily Tomlin, as her famous character Ernestine, the telephone operator, was always connected and connecting. (Photo courtesy of

Ok, so I have tried a semi-disconnect during my 20-day holiday over Christmas and New Year.

Not total, but semi.

Semi was difficult at times, total would be excruciatingly painful.

But at almost 65, I lived a major portion of my life disconnected from the ever present digital essentials of today. So, why, I ask myself, is it so darn hard to put away all the “i-whatever’s” in my life?

Well, that is a question without a quick answer.

I am proud of my semi disconnect and even bragged about it to the master of disconnect, my friend William Powers, who advocates occasional but systematic digital abstinence the way Martha Stewart , the queen of domesticity, sings the praises of a certain type of linen napkin.

Bill even sent a congratulatory note:

Happy New Year, Mario!  20 days of disconnectedness is quite amazing and impressive. Congratulation. now I’m curious: Did your mind go to new places during that time? Or perhaps revisit some forgotten places?

You are right, Bill, I did manage to sit there on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in sunny Miami Beach and think of those days 51 years ago when I had arrived at that same coast, a somewhat scared 14 year old Cuban refugee.

But, do I truly deserve Bill’s congratulatory message? It really was not a total disconnect.

Should I confess that I sneaked a Tweet while my grandson Frankie took a potty break during our ritual Thomas the Train play at my home? Or, how about a sneak peek into my G-mail account while my daughter Elena answered her phone while I helped her set up for the New Year’s Eve party at her house?

Bad, bad, Mario.

Then Frank Deville and I were lying on the beach in Miami, enjoying glorious weather, and had decided to abandon digital interruptions, but when he ventured into the rather cold ( for a Cuban, anyway) waters of the Atlantic, I went in to check the New York Times—-ok, the Iowa caucuses had taken place and I , a patriotic American, had a duty to know the results. Just could not put it off one more minute.

Am I addicted?

Well, if I am, I am not alone.

I have been eating at plenty of restaurants the past three weeks, observing the human condition. Big dinner parties, tables of 8 to 12 people, with many of the people consulting their phones more than once, sending text messages, or, worse, getting up to go to the toilet, presumably, with their mobile phones on hand. Even worse, we witnessed when the three young men and three young,pretty women sitting next to us at trendy Casa Tua resturant in South Beach , basically stopped their conversation and direct eye contact with each other every ten minutes, diverting attention to their mobile phones. After a few minutes of silence, they would put the devices away as if nothing happened , a break from the virtual and back to the real, just like that. Must be the novel approach to dating—-in well connected groups.

One young woman in the group, perhaps the most addicted, kept her mobile close to her and never let go, checking for messages, answering feverishly as she typed quickly, her body turned away from the others, as if the world did not know what she was doing. Nobody seemed upset, at her, or at anyone else.

Obviously, in today’s social environment, in the world of the always connected society, it is dining, wining and texting!

Is it likely to get worse?

Three of my grandchildren already have an iPhone, and two are waiting for the moment they get one——begging me for their iPhone, a right that must e theirs at a certain age, say 10.

And two of them text message each other while in the same room. I have not done that yet, but I am the grandpa here.

My granddaughter Brianna loves to do Facetime with me, even when she is in the living room of my house.

Come to think about it, if I myself were not connected, I would not be able to do any of this great bonding with my own grandchildren .

A wonderful reason to be ever connected, although I am not admitting this yet, and, definitely NOT telling William Powers!

Of special interest today:

– UK: Guardian iPad app downloads pass 500k

– UK: Guardian Starts Charging 280,000 iPad Readers From Friday; How Will It Go?

– UK: Ed: ‘Hold the front page while Twitter has a look’

– UK: News consumption report by Enders Analysis for DMGT

TheMarioBlog post # 923
Blog Post09.22.2017—4am
Mexican earthquake: front pages tell the story
Blog Post09.21.2017—1am
Saying adios to The Village Voice in print
Blog Post09.20.2017—1am
Vogue in print: “point of view, attitude”
Blog Post09.19.2017—1am
The Boston Scene
Blog Post09.18.2017—1am
Thoughts on print: still here, still full of surprises, worthy of attention
Blog Post09.15.2017—1am
New report: For publishers, Facebook is no revenue panacea
Blog Post09.14.2017—1am
Smartphones and web traffic: where the action is
Blog Post09.13.2017—1am
Paris Match: a good visit and big plans
Blog Post09.12.2017—1am
Irma: the morning after
Blog Post09.11.2017—3am
Irma: the bad girl on every front page
Blog Post09.08.2017—1am
Type Magazine: the new Roger Black project
Blog Post09.06.2017—1am
Linear storytelling for mobile: a good example
Blog Post09.05.2017—1am
For Le Journal de Montreal: article page acts like home page, sort of
Blog Post09.01.2017—1am
Facebook the new front page?
Blog Post08.31.2017—1am
When it comes to news, “designer labels” can make the difference
Blog Post08.30.2017—1am
Those fabulous print glossy ads
Blog Post08.29.2017—1am
From here and there: what the email basket brings
Blog Post08.28.2017—1am
Why I would show this Times Mag cover to my class
Blog Post08.24.2017—1am
A caricature for the ages
Blog Post08.23.2017—1am
It was the day Americans looked up!
Blog Post08.22.2017—1am
It was all about the solar eclipse of the century
Blog Post08.21.2017—1am
A day without local news? In Minnesota, readers experience it
Blog Post08.18.2017—1am
The good news about print (in the USA)
Blog Post08.17.2017—1am
What’s your lead story right this minute?
Blog Post08.16.2017—1am
Panama’s La Prensa: workshop digital media, day 2
Blog Post08.15.2017—1am
Panama’s La Prensa: digital workshop
Blog Post08.14.2017—1am
Millennials still like their Facebook
Blog Post08.11.2017—1am
All about the Eclipse: the Times nailed it.
Blog Post08.10.2017—1am
It’s the Monocle printed newspaper again
Blog Post08.09.2017—1am
Who pays for news, and who believes the news? Report tells us
Blog Post08.08.2017—1am
Workshops: linear visual storytelling
Blog Post08.07.2017—1am
For newspaper print editions: the power of the headline
Blog Post08.04.2017—1am
Behold the iPad: it’s still part of the media quintet
Blog Post08.03.2017—1am
At the NYTimes: push for customized content moves forward
Blog Post08.02.2017—1am
The Mooch’s quick departure on the front pages
Blog Post08.01.2017—1am
At The New York Times: aggressively pushing digital subscriptions
Blog Post07.31.2017—1am
Thoughts while on vacation
Blog Post07.14.2017—1am
Local newspapers, new digital strategies that work
Blog Post07.13.2017—1am
The Donald Jr. Russian story: It’s somewhere on that front page
Blog Post07.12.2017—1am
Ecuador: where print still dominates
Contact us with speaking requests, questions or to discuss a project.