Tanya Gold gave up computers and mobile phones for a week. She reports ‘Life seemed slower, and slightly more rewarding’.


These electronic toys are skilled at making you believe you are achieving things – working or interacting with those strange things I think are called other people. They give you the illusion of occupation and purpose. But it is false. You do nothing. You fritter and buzz and beep and shout “I’m in Swindon!”, all the way to the grave.

But she picked back up her mobile phone, and logged back on to facebook I’m sure. Maybe, like Oliver Burkeman says, we like feeling busy and the self-importance (and distraction) that it brings.

I also like being busy, and without a certain amount of freneticism I don’t get as much done. But I also like the mental breathing space of not having a mobile phone, or not feeling like I need to check my email. I think technology can make us smarter and happier, and if people constantly twitter or check their email or whatever I think it is probably because they like things like that. But there is a trade-off, a state of mind that is lost when you adopt the continuous partial attention mode. The conundrum is how to get the benefits of energy withouty the costs of loss-of-focus (or, from the other perspective, how to keep the benefits of calm while still being in touch and efficient). Answers on a postcard please…