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

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