Editor: I read two interesting articles recently that were not only food for thought but perhaps even habit-changing.

One, “Mindfulness,” authored by Scranton native David Hochman, appeared on the front page of the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times on Nov. 3.

It is a commentary on the use of information and communications technologies excessively — even addictively — and ways of breaking or reducing the habit — for your mental and social health.

The other, “Is There an App for That?,” written by Katherine Xue in the most recent Harvard Magazine, reports on the work of another native son, Howard Gardner, renowned professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.  According to Mr. Gardner and colleague Katie Davis in their book, “The App Generation,” “…young people growing up in our time are not only immersed in apps, they’ve come to think of the world as an ensemble of apps….”

Both articles might be seen as contemporary reminders of Marshall McLuhan’s prophecy back in 1967 that “the medium is the message.” We know, often from our own experience, how convenient these shortcuts — apps, smartphones, social media — are to information, social relationships, political decision-making, recipes, etc., can be, but our relationship to them — keeping us connected relentlessly — just might do us some harm. Do we ever turn off? Do we ever disconnect? Do we find time to meditate, reflect or simply let our minds go free?

Mr. Hochman and Mr. Gardner remind us that our creativity and intellectual energy depend to some extent on disconnecting from the devices that make us short-term more efficient and long-term, somewhat robotic.

I just might leave my smartphone home next time I go to the movies; then I can relax and ignore the high-volume reminder to turn it off.

Times-Tribune, Publication Date: November 11, 2013

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