The White Report

Catherine White connects and creates worth through powerful story telling

For whom the iPhone tolls

with 30 comments

Has time with your gadgets replaced quality time with family? Do you respond to the ping of your iPhone quicker than a snuggle from your nearest and dearest?

To be honest, I’m becoming increasingly impatient with our excessive reliance on the internet and technology. Not that I don’t appreciate the benefits of the internet, on the contrary, I love social media, but my limit has been reached.

I need blocks of time to recharge and reflect. Time alone in a room without aural or visual stimulation come’s easy to me.

Notwithstanding, I’ve observed, since the acquisition of an iPhone, that my thinking time is constantly interrupted. I’m suffering from a ‘need’ to check my email, or browse the internet, whatever I’m doing at the time. (sound familiar?)

I’m disturbed that my thought processes are frequently interrupted, I’d go so far as to ask myself how this hand held device is reshaping my personality.

In a study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia, subjected 173 college students to tests measuring risk for problematic Internet and gambling behaviors. Abour 5 percent of the students showed signs of gambling problems, but 10 percent of the students posted scores high enough to put them in the at-risk category for Internet ‘Addiction”

The study shows that technology use was interfering with the students’ daily lives.

A different group of 200 students were asked by the International Centre for Media and the Public Agenda, at the University of Maryland, to refrain from using electronic media for a day. It was found that giving up technology cold turkey not only makes life logistically difficult, but also changes our ability to connect with others.

Moreover, Dr Aboujaoude asks in her book ‘Virtually You: The Internet and the Fracturing of the Self,” if the efficiency of the iPhone, and anonymity of the chat room, is changing the core of who we are.

I too have to ask myself if the constant digital stimulation has diminshed my ability to focus. Am I the only one who’s frequently way laid by an email notification? Has browsing online [in the name of checking my facts] prevented me from finishing a good book, or simply writing in my journal?

For that reason I’ve decided to disconnect, or at least curtail the iPhone beast.

Think about it, we don’t have to dig too far back to recall the comfort of walking in the rain without the ping of the phone, or sitting by a reading light, instead of a computer screen.

I’m not an evangelist by any means, in fact, the ping from my iPhone continues unheeded as I write. However, like food and alcohol, everything is good in moderation.

Maybe it’s time you too asked if others in your life complain about the amount of time you spend with your technology?

Does going online comfort you?

If going online fixes you, then it’s time to ask what price the toll if we don’t fix it, and fix it NOW?

“Here it is, the shift from deadliness to normal family life that is the strangest” Ernest Hemingway [For Whom the Bell Tolls]

Written by Catherine White

June 10, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

30 Responses

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  1. […] friend, Catherine White wrote an excellent post For whom the iPhone tolls. It raises the important issue of being able to disconnect from technology – turn the […]

  2. Catherine, how has you experiment gone over the past few months? I’d like to hear how this has gone for you and to see if there are any a-ha moments we could possibly learn from? :-)

    Andrew Blanda

    October 19, 2010 at 11.27 am10

  3. That top photo is quite disturbing… but it really makes you think. And I agree…. Just this morning I was enjoying a train ride with my children but of course I had to check my email… um… maybe… 3 or 10 times :D And I though STOP!! Just be in the moment.

    Kelly B

    September 21, 2010 at 11.27 pm09

  4. Thank you cards are almost the golden rule when it comes to business relations and friendship between the family and friends. Sometimes people do things that are beautiful and generous to others.

    Tips to fall into a routine of the handwriting of Thanks. If you do not want to send letters to boil for a business partner. These tips on how successful people write thank you cards should be a great way to start.

    June 23, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

  5. Good post Catherine I am constantly managing online time with family. I find it a relief to stop the constant connection habit. Just be old fashioned and not even answer the phone!


    June 19, 2010 at 11.27 am06

  6. just thought i’d let you know i’m taking 48 hours off gadgets very shortly – disappearing and reading fiction in traditional format, disconnecting from technology to reconnect with loved ones. intended to do it before reading this post but spurred on of course…

    interestingly i was out in the country side this morning – stunningly beautiful and i caught myself wanting to ‘share’ the beauty – photograph it on the iphone send it to posterous etc. i was so far in the outback however that it was not possible so i felt a little strange.. disconnected for sure.

    there is more to this ‘addiction’ to connection than meets the eye i feel. it is something we get so used to that perhaps it does indeed become quite difficult to give up. at least i’ll be in nice surroundings when i do mine …. see you on the other side :-)


    ps did you decide to keep a journal in the end?
    interesting idea……

    helen crozier

    June 18, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

    • Thank you for you for your thoughtful, and heartfelt reply Helen.

      To answer your question, and honestly, after this post I enjoyed a few days of ‘freedom.’ Suffice to say, the old habit of responding to every ping of the email returned in full force.

      For two days, I have toyed with the idea of a diary, but your comment has become the nudge I need.

      I feel certain a diary of sorts will keep me accountable, if to no one, other than myself.

      The other side you say? I look forward to seeing you there, and sharing my results with you.

      Enjoy your return to reality


  7. Hi Catherine,

    Thanks for – yet again – another fantastic post!!

    I couldn’t agree more with some of the comments above, we should NOT let technology own us and interfere with time spent with our beloved ones. At the end of the day, it’s all about balance, as Iggy rightly put it. Yes, I do have an iPhone, but I also have an old-fashioned notebook with me all the time, and I constantly look for inspiration offline (or “inline”). That’s what fuels my creativity. As long as we can manage this balance, I think we’re fine.

    And as you said, Robin managed to create an amazing online community with the most basic phone ever (sorry Rob!!). That gets one thinking!

    Just as a side note, I’m coming back from a 2-week d@tox myself, and geez, it felt good! At first I felt a bit guilty not to check my Twitter account regularly, but then I realised I really wanted to be in the moment and make the most of my days in Paris, so I stayed away from my laptop most of the time!


    PS: I still love my iPhone and the convenience it brings to my life, it’s like having a Swiss knife in your pocket ;-)

    Myriam @Detours

    June 18, 2010 at 11.27 am06

    • Catherinw, I believe Myriam has shared one of the greatest insights to technology with her P.S. here – all this technology is here to help us, BUT knowing when to use it is the key!

      You don’t see anyone pulling out their Swiss army knife in the middle of the street, but knowing it’s there and knowing when to use it is the key. I think it’s the same with technology!

      Andrew Blanda

      June 22, 2010 at 11.27 am06

  8. @Radika – I have often ferociously said that I would chamion legislation to ban cell phone use entirely while driving – and not just from a safety standpoint, but from a sanity standpoint. I purposely did not buy a headset for my cell.


    June 13, 2010 at 11.27 am06

  9. Hi Catherine
    I applaud you for asking such a pertinent question in such a ‘digitally charged’ age and am buoyed by the commentary that its generated. I think this is further emphasised by the fact that the majority that have contributed to this discussion I have met by virtue of an initial ‘virtual’ connection.

    I do not own an iphone and have recently toyed with the idea for pure surfing. I have always been a fan of gadgetry from when I owned my first Palm Pilot with a fold out keyboard to take notes in lectures at the start of this century! I trust that any investment in an iPhone, iPad, Android and the like would serve a similar purpose and not become the only way I engage with others (I like people too much not to want to meet IRL!).

    That being said, it was a tough lesson to be learned after being handed my first Blackberry and becoming a complete slave to its every beep. Emails would be exchanged well into the night, and phone calls lasting the full length of my journey home. Thanks to additional applications all means of contact from personal emails and facebook alerts interrupted me constantly. There arrived a time when it had to stop and all the alerts were switched off! Now only the phone will ring and text messages arrive. And yet it is never far from me, a day without it is a major inconvenience and it determines my course each day.

    So after this admission of enslavement still I am smiling at the two notebooks sitting in my handbag that I won’t leave home without either! Returning online has meant I am writing again, more than before and those notebooks are as much a part of that process as is that damned phone!

    Unplugging now with warmest regards …Radhika :)

    Radhika Ram Tevita

    June 13, 2010 at 11.27 am06

  10. […] online versus offline recently. Catherine White wrote an impressive, poignant piece entitled ‘For whom the iPhone tolls’ and was picked up by Robin Dickinson in ‘How we disconnect from technology?‘ which […]

  11. Hi Catherine ..another thought inspired by Helen (tks Helen! :) ) ..a journal of your thoughts as you e-detox might make great reading later on – if you are happy to share. Just a thought ..Take care – have a great -e-free- weekend! :)

    Anne Sorensen

    June 11, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

  12. Hi Miss White
    I agree with you wholeheartedly. On the one hand the ease with which we can get online and perform our business online is a big positive. This means we can use discretionary time blocks to keep our digital slates clean if we choose to do so. On the other hand the allure of the apps store, social media and electronic books could mean that we spend far too much time glued to our electronic devices.
    I am all for setting boundaries and going offline to recharge and feel less ‘scattered’. I think it’s completely essential in fact a friend of mine is just in the midst of a few weeks ‘off twitter and facebook’ just to detox.
    Funnily enough I had not read your post until today but last night I decided to leave the iPhone and iPad in the living room. My bedside table was completely clear except for a glass of water!
    Good luck with your journey – I know that we have been late night tweeters hungry to keep up to date with the entire online world but yes I think we need to adopt some rules of moderation!! If you need an accountability buddy or detox buddy you know I’m here.
    As always your friend

    Helen Crozier

    June 11, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

  13. Well said oh Divine wise one. x

  14. Yes, you are right of course, and its been going on for years! I grew up with parents who turned the radio on as soon as they woke up in the morning to hear what happened in the world….and we were told to be quiet so as to not interrupt their ability to hear the news! Ditto in the evenings! In fairness, we didnt have it on during the evening meal which was enjoyed around a dining room table. Until TV arrived (that was only 1976 in South Africa) , and it was downhill from there! I personally think the cognitive load of an iphone is higher than a Blackberry….the user interface is more demanding because of the touchpad.

    Annalie Killian

    June 10, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

  15. Catherine, I’ve often made the statement to others that they are slaves to technology, and many do not know *why*. This comment: “In doing so I also hope to draw people into a deeper reflection on the *why* of our use of *technology* rather than the *whim*” is a perfect summary of my view.

    Like Robin, I have a simplistic device to make phone calls, however I am not a phone-call person – I prefer face to face and simply lap up every single conversation I have with the people I meet at coffeemornings and other such events.

    It doesn’t actually matter what the subject is, the message is still the same: the people matter. Whether it be food, alcohol, exercise, movies, technology, etc, it’s not the act that’s important, it’s who it’s done with/who shares your story that’s most critical. Technology is a tool and should be used to enhance what we do in our lives, BUT should not take over our lives.

    I am a practical person and only acquire items I know I will use or need to enhance my life, but not rule it. Having said that, I do understand the power of disconnecting!

    Oh and Bart, good on you for getting back to the woodworking. I, too enjoy it and need to get back into it myself! :-)

    Andrew Blanda

    June 10, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

    • Andrew, the couple of times we met in real life bare out your practical and earthy approach to life.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone, it’s a fabulous device, the full use of which I’m yet to discover.

      That said, I hear people like myself with the latest gadget trumping their wares as if they were shareholders in companies like Apple and Microsoft.

      I can only conclude such a position masks their own unease with our technological disease.

      Since you have mentioned Robin, I have to pose the question; how has Robin, in less than nine months, built a community on the simple idea of sharing, WITHOUT a Smart Phone?

      Just wondering …

      Thanks Andrew, I always enjoy hearing from you :-)


  16. […] friend, Catherine White wrote an excellent post For whom the iPhone tolls. It raises the important issue of being able to disconnect from technology – turn the […]

  17. Hi Catherine! Great post!

    Love the term ‘white out’! :)

    How are you going to disconnect? (Part 2 required!) :) Will you unplug – switch off at certain times? I’ve tried to unplug completely for one day – on the weekend for awhile … haven’t yet been very successful!

    I remember reading some time ago about having one complete day in the week free of reading any business related material .. I have tried to apply the same principle to electronics! .. still trying! :)

    Friend Iggy’s routine with social media is a great structure – if I recall correctly he recommends 30 minutes 3 x daily! (Your Social Media Medicine!)

    Unplugging – and reading, seeing movies, enjoying company of friends and family – is great for creativity also.

    Look forward to hearing more of your plans and reading more of your writing!

    Thanks again. Take care! :)

    Anne Sorensen

    June 10, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

  18. Catherine

    What a great post. As Robin’s thing is “focus”, mine is balance. You infer it when you mention moderation relative to food and alcohol – it’s the same with technology. Balance is key.

    I must point out that as a ‘super connector’, part of this balance is being efficient and effective in how you go about your day. As I mention in my book, Connection Generation, the lines of offline and online have blurred for me – it’s now about being ‘inline’.

    For example, the most effective way of achieving an interview recently wasn’t a teleconference or Skype chat. What gave me greater balance all round was a lunch with the lovely interviewer in a pub in face-to-face conversation. It was “inline” with that we all had to get done.

    Finally, if you’re going to disconnect, please do so from the technology – but not the people. I really value my connection with you and your insights as they truly create such worth for me.

    Cheers, Iggy

    Iggy Pintado

    June 10, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

    • I love the way you’ve inverted off and online to inline, beautifully put.

      The interview is by no means forgotten, in fact I’ve recruited a VA to get a newsletter up and running for me. Leverage and coverage, particularly from the Big Apple have been my considerations.

      That said, and to the side for a moment, I’ve observed the availability of highly connected technology, has given rise to nothing but babble, nonsense or politically oriented crap. Not necessarily politics, but coalitions of highly connected interests with skewed agendas.

      My recent hiatus has been a time of deep personal self analysis, as I’ve come very close to pulling up stumps all together.

      Acquiring an iPhone was only the tipping point, but that said, I’ve been encouraged by a couple of people (on, off and inline) to keep writing. For this reason, I’m moving my stuff out further in a newsletter, the highlights will be printed in bi monthly periodicals.

      So there you have it, in black and white — literally. I’m not whiting out, but filling up with fresh ink and a new angle.

      Thanks Iggy — your writing style is as engaging as the author.


  19. Catherine;

    Not 5 minutes ago I was cleaning the kitchen after dinner with my wife and I looked at her and said “I am selling all of our electronics and we are moving into a tent!” Then I came in to check eBay for an auction I am watching. The item, as it happens, is a woodworking tool so that I can get back to doing things with my hands which releases my mind to think, which I love dearly, as well as to create beautiful but simple woodwork. And then I saw your post and had to respond!

    I have no iPhone, I have an iPod but only use it when driving by myself. I won’t be getting an iPad. I truly love the feel of a pencil scratching on paper as I conceive and write ideas.

    Good to see you are still around, and good to see you have perspective. Keep it up!


    June 10, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

    • Hi Bart

      Your description of wood turning, and scratching paper, evokes the smell of parchment and wood shavings.

      I believe you’ve nailed the core of who we are; tactile beings in search of meaning and significance.

      Since I’m not a proselyte subscribing to eking a living in mud huts, I confess I’ve picked up more than a couple of bargains on eBay.

      Thank you for a small glimpse into your own technological dilemma.

      Warm regards

  20. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Catherine White, Tony Hurst. Tony Hurst said: : Has time with your gadgets replaced quality time with family? Do your respond to the ping of… […]

  21. Thanks Annabel, a lovely surprise indeed.

    In fact it’s you have inspired me recently. As a result of receiving your interesting newsletter, I too am working on my first newsletter.

    Thank you for your encouragement. Actually I find the formatting of blogging a tad frustrating as it’s not my forte.

    But getting there with the image placements, and learning to let go of perfection.

    As for the iPhone, despite it’s constant pinging, I’ve not checked it once in the last four hours :-)

    • Lol, that’s great, I can’t wait to see it:) Learning to let go of perfection is hard too but also necessary. You’re doing well, my cell phone battery must be dead as I haven’t heard it beep for ages. Thank goodness!

  22. Simply divine Miss White:) Love the photo too. I don’t have an iphone either. I’mquite old school and cell phones drive me mad. I resent them. Anyway, I already have enough interuptions, like people writing great blog posts like this and retweeting them. Yes, it needs fixing and we all have to take control of it. I’m a bit susceptible to addiciton too – there are so many tempations and it’s great that this is one thing we can turn off, leave at home or in the office. Good luck!

  23. Thank you Robin — I well appreciate your attention to focus, particularly in business.

    As for me, I was once an early adopter of technology, however have found over time it has begun to own me.

    Since I’ve also stepped in when I’ve found food or alcohol out of balance, I am stepping in now.

    In doing so I also hope to draw people into a deeper reflection on the *why* of our use of *technology* rather than the *whim*

  24. Thank you for bringing this topic on to the table, Catherine.

    To me it’s about focus – diamond focus. My focus is to help *people* succeed. In this context, technology only makes sense to the extent that it serves this specific focus.

    That is why I don’t have an iPhone or similar technology. My very simple, cheap phone has the best functionality on the planet – it get’s used to help people succeed. It’s so simple. I key in the numbers and hit send, then they talk and I listen, and offer help when and where appropriate. Truly magical – and cheap!!!

    Technology is a means to an end. The marketers have done an amazing job convincing us that it *is* the end. Well one things for sure, it will be the *end* of relationships if we ever lose focus of what’s really important – or rather *who*’s really important!

    Best, your friend, Robin :)

    Robin Dickinson

    June 10, 2010 at 11.27 pm06

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