Global pervasive addiction? Or … just something new?

Coffee also never waits in the morning.

Well… it usually doesn’t wait because I have a routine.

I think this article deserves a little thought.

Before books, people interacted in a different way during the day.

Before electricity, the day had a different rhythm.

Before radio, people interacted in a different in the evening.

Before TV, people interacted in a different way at meals.

Before cellphones, people had a different pace of long distance coms.

Before the internet…

Are we losing something criticalDo we gain something still hard to characterize.

From the NYT with my emphases and comments.

Coffee Can Wait. Day’s First Stop Is Online.

Published: August 9, 2009

Karl and Dorsey Gude of East Lansing, Mich., can remember simpler mornings, not too long ago. They sat together and chatted as they ate breakfast. They read the newspaper and competed only with the television for the attention of their two teenage sons.

That was so last century. Today, Mr. Gude wakes at around 6 a.m. to check his work e-mail and his Facebook and Twitter accounts. The two boys, Cole and Erik, start each morning with text messages, video games and Facebook.

The new routine quickly became a source of conflict in the family, with Ms. Gude complaining that technology was eating into family time. But ultimately even she partially succumbed, cracking open her laptop after breakfast.

“Things that I thought were unacceptable a few years ago are now commonplace in my house,” she said, “like all four of us starting the day on four computers in four separate rooms.”  [separate rooms… in the same room?  difference?]

Technology has shaken up plenty of life’s routines, but for many people it has completely altered the once predictable rituals at the start of the day.

This is morning in America in the Internet age. After six to eight hours of network deprivation — also known as sleep[redefining terms… appropriate]  people are increasingly waking up and lunging [great word choice… this is well written] for cellphones and laptops, sometimes even before swinging their legs to the floor and tending to more biologically urgent activities[urgent activities are in two categories…. technical and biological.  What about spiritual?  What happens to the morning offeringQUAERITUR: Do you make a morning offering as the first thing?  I think this can be developed into a habit.  You must condition yourself to this: turn the first thought of the day to God.  The longer I live, the less optimistic I am about death bed conversions in this day and age.  We should foster these habits.]

“It used to be you woke up, went to the bathroom, maybe brushed your teeth and picked up the newspaper,” said Naomi S. Baron, a professor of linguistics at American University, who has written about technology’s push into everyday life. “But what we do first now has changed dramatically. I’ll be the first to admit: the first thing I do is check my e-mail.” [Think about it.  Have you put off going to the bathroom because you needed to hit F-5?  I have done that.  I don’t do that anymore.]

The Gudes’ sons sleep with their phones next to their beds, so they start the day with text messages in place of alarm clocks. Mr. Gude, an instructor at Michigan State University, sends texts to his two sons to wake up[Now that is interesting.  In the 19th c. Royal Navy, cots would but cut down with a knife.]

“We use texting as an in-house intercom,” he said. “I could just walk upstairs, but they always answer their texts.”  [For the young, the SMS has immediate impact.] The Gudes recently began shutting their devices down on weekends to account for the decrease in family time.

In other households, the impulse to go online before getting out the door adds an extra layer of chaos to the already discombobulating morning scramble.

Weekday mornings have long been frenetic, disjointed affairs. Now families that used to fight over the shower or the newspaper tussle over access to the lone household computer — or about whether they should be using gadgets at all, instead of communicating with one another.

“They used to have blankies; now they have phones, which even have their own umbilical cord right to the charger,” [Plus ça change… ] said Liz Perle, a mother in San Francisco who laments the early-morning technology immersion of her two teenage children. “If their beds were far from the power outlets, they would probably sleep on the floor.”  […. hmmm… hmmm…. societal…. global… addiction?  Sounds like something from a Dr. Who episode.]

The surge of early risers is reflected in online and wireless traffic patterns. Internet companies that used to watch traffic levels rise only when people booted up at work now see the uptick much earlier.

Arbor Networks, a Boston company that analyzes Internet use, says that Web traffic in the United States gradually declines from midnight to around 6 a.m. on the East Coast and then gets a huge morning caffeine jolt. “It’s a rocket ship that takes off at 7 a.m,” said Craig Labovitz, Arbor’s chief scientist.

Akamai, which helps sites like Facebook and Amazon keep up with visitor demand, says traffic takes off even earlier, at around 6 a.m. on the East Coast. Verizon Wireless reported the number of text messages sent between 7 and 10 a.m. jumped by 50 percent in July, compared with a year earlier.  [Cf. WDTPRS.]

Both adults and children have good reasons to wake up and log on[They are …. Catholic?] Mom and Dad might need to catch up on e-mail from colleagues in different time zones[Oh, how I can identify!] Children check text messages and Facebook posts from friends with different bedtimes[Remember: I can go anywhere and call for a blognic and 30 people show up.  This is not a surprise.  We are interconnected in new ways.] and sometime forget their chores in the process.  [A parental problem.]

In May, Gabrielle Glaser of Montclair, N.J., bought her 14-year-old daughter, Moriah, an Apple laptop for her birthday. In the weeks after, Moriah missed the school bus three times and went from walking the family Labradoodle for 20 minutes each morning to only briefly letting the dog outside[Addiction?  Parental issue?]

Moriah concedes that she neglected the bus and dog, and blames Facebook, where the possibility that crucial updates from friends might be waiting  [OMG! OMG! There might, like… OMG… be like a like update to WDTPRS!] draws her online as soon as she wakes. “I have some friends that are up early and chatting,” she said. “There is definitely a pull to check it.”

Some families have tried to set limits on Internet use in the mornings. James Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that deals with children and entertainment, wakes every morning at 6 and spends the next hour on his BlackBerry, managing e-mail from contacts in different parts of the world.  [Yah… I get a LOT of e-mail.]

But when he meets his wife, Liz, and their four children, ages 5 to 16, at the breakfast table, no laptops or phones are allowed[Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

Mr. Steyer says he and his sons feel the temptation of technology early. Kirk, 14, often runs through much of his daily one-hour allotment of video-game time in the morning.  [So… some values clarification needs to take place.  You should much rather spend that time checking your social networking pages!]

Even Jesse, 5, has started asking each morning if he can play games on his father’s iPhone. [Yah.  Because size matters.  There is a charm, isn’t there, to playing on a phone.  I am up to level 31 on Bejewelled just from sitting in airports.]  And Mr. Steyer said he constantly feels the tug of waiting messages on his BlackBerry, even during morning hours that are reserved for family time.

“You have to resist the impulse. You have to switch from work mode to parenting mode,” Mr. Steyer said. “But meeting my own standard is tough.”

Disgust… er um…. Discuss.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Global Killer Asteroid Questions, SESSIUNCULA, The future and our choices. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. always catholic says:

    There is so much food for fodder here that I think Father has responded with proper insight.
    Interestingly enough, I am doing research for an article on the daily routine and manners of life in England circa early-mid 19th C.
    Father is spot on with his observation of the rhythm of day before electricity. The article deals exactly with that very rhythm and how it affected family life in upper circles. (Not necessarily rich-the same class of people that can afford all these modern trappings, vacations, etc today-an educated upper class)

    I find the major difference is that in the time period (1800-1880)is that the sense of duty, family and proper etiquette was the most important consideration. God, country and family were the proper placement for the time. America also experienced the same thing being originally a colony of England, societal norms were the same.

    Everything that had to be accomplished in a day at that time had to be thought out in a plan, not left to whimsy or a guess with 5 minutes to get it done.

    Perhaps we have something to learn from our friends of the past. I am contemplating running an experiment with my friends and see if we could approach a day as if it were mid 19thC. No technology- and planning the meals with thought, sending a note by a courier for an invite to said meal and assembling guests and family for that meal. Sounds exhausting, doesnt it?

    Not to me-I think that reading about this particular family has made me so tired I must bid adieu and go off to bed.

    I wonder if Jane Austen had a Blackberry & used Twitter would 6 of the greatest novels of the English language ever have been written?

    Just a thought,

    Sophia Guerra

    PS. Dont get me wrong-I like Twitter etc but everything in its rightful place. God, country, family & then everything else!!

    PPS. Please excuse the grammar errors-I am typing this as I fall asleep-it sort of rambles, scusi!

  2. Jonathan says:

    “OMG! OMG! There might, like… OMG… be like a like update to WDTPRS!”

    Sounds like me. :D

  3. always: I wonder if Jane Austen had a Blackberry & used Twitter would 6 of the greatest novels of the English language ever have been written?

    Did you see the little series made about a modern day woman exchanging places with Elizabeth Bennett?

  4. Emilio III says:

    I used to wake up to check CompuServe forum messages and later email, but ever since I’ve been driving my mother to 6:25am daily Mass I find that that can wait until after breakfast. Sometimes until I get to the office! :-)

  5. Compuserve forum… CATHOLIC forum?

  6. Nora says:

    Father Z, I pray for your intentions pretty much every day at mass (you do get bumped for emergent crises), but I don’t think I have ever told you directly that I love you. I LOVE you!

  7. Ellen says:

    I got a cell phone when my daughter made me get one. Last month, I was on it for 16 minutes. I feel no need to be always on, always in contact. When I want to see my daughter and her family, I just drive over.

    I have given up TV as my primary news source though, and now I use the internet.

  8. Temporarily anonymous says:

    On my way to my study for Matins (in Latin, of course) within 2 minutes after arising shortly after 4 am, I flip on the coffee maker as I pass through the kitchen. A cup of coffee is ready by the time the invitatory antiphon and psalm and hymn are finished.

    Upon finishing Matins, I say the rosary on my 3-mile walk between a quick breakfast (just cereal, fruit, and juice) and Lauds. It was a big quality-of-life improvement about a year ago when I resolved never to turn on a computer before returning from morning Mass and/or Eucharistic Adoration.

    Thereafter, I am logged in all day until I shut down my computers for Compline. However, I abhor the phone, urge everybody to e-mail me instead, and have never reached the 10-minute monthly limit on my cell phone account.

  9. Julie says:

    My 11-yr. old daughter has begged for a phone for a year now. My answer is always the same: “As soon as you are old enough to get a job so you can pay for it, you have my blessing to get a phone. Until then the answer is still no”. I have many friends who have kids my girls ages and they give them phones as if it’s a right. They use the safety issue or that they want to be able to keep tabs on them at all times. Well, sorry but I didn’t have a cell phone growing up and I’m still breathing. This summer I enacted a 2-hour technology limit per day and some days they didn’t even reach that limit. This included Internet and Nintendo DS time because those were the two problem areas I saw daily. I even have a sign-in sheet so there is no question about it. I don’t limit TV but monitor carefully what they watch. It’s usually on the Disney Channel. In the morning before the bus comes ALL technology is off limits including TV. Oh and we eat dinner at the table as a family almost every night and nobody better take a bite before all are sitting and someone says grace out loud. I live in a community of entitlement. The High School parking lot is full of brand new expensive cars. My oldest daughter saved for an entire summer working 70 hour weeks at an amusement park to buy her first second-hand car. She is still VERY proud of that car and tells everyone how hard she had to work for it. I’m not always a popular mom when I say no but I’m not out to win any prizes.

  10. DJY says:

    At first, having read the title and seen the picture, I thought the addiction we would be discussing was coffee. I mean…computers before coffee? Let’s not go crazy!

    This is an interesting topic, and it reflects a conversation I just had a few days ago with a good high school friend. Both of us having just turned 30 have found ourselves in an interesting position in time. When we were kids, TV was 6 channels and there was no point in turning it on before 6 or after 10, computers went *beep* and a “cell phone” required a backpack like the Ghostbusters would wear.

    Within a decade, computers exploded. The web went from CERN, to a world of text and gray backgrounds, to Flash and beyond. We grew up as technology and “Tomorrowland” became “Nowland”. As a result we were comfortable with the tools, but they remained that: tools.

    Jump ahead 15 years, and now we wonder: are we the old farts? Friends five years (and sometime less) younger than I have a continuous connection to the internet, and more importantly, it’s an active one. Less than five years ago, without HTML, CSS and Java, you were merely a consumer; now you are the producer as well. Whereas my friends my age are on Facebook (it is a wonderful *tool* for maintaining contact with far-flung friends and relatives) but hidden behind layers of privacy, my younger friends (most of whom giggle at the thought of an Apple IIe) are out there on full display, Tweeting their every thought (Friend M had caprese salad last night for dinner).

    Are these tools the devil? Certainly not, and I don’t believe most people would argue that. I truly believe in this globalized world, where people have friends on every continent, such tools are essential. Look at our gracious host’s recent travels abroad for positive example of this. Nonetheless I still worry that we are blurring the distinction between “staying in touch” and true human interaction. Like the people of Azimov’s Solaria, we are rapidly becoming a people who are never left alone, but are more alone than ever.

    But then again, over in this Ivory Tower, I suspect I’m something of a troglodyte.

  11. Jenny says:

    I believe it is mostly a parenting/self-discipline problem. The parents are mesmerized by the new technology, have problems setting limits for themselves, and, therefore have trouble setting limits for their children. A lot of parents raise their children in a nonthinking way. Choices are not deliberate and routines arise out of happenstance.

    I am not immune. In my house we have a terrible habit of just refreshing the page, just checking email, just seeing who is on Facebook. My husband has a blog, so the call of Google Analytics and AdSense is strong. Small actions taken repeatedly that eat time out of the day. We noticed how negatively these small time takers impacted our evenings. We have decided that there will be no computer from the time to get supper ready until the children are ready for bed. All of it can wait.

    We also have proactively decided that the children will not have a television or computer in their room. They will not get cell phones until maybe they are old enough to drive. We do not have the television on during meals. We eat meals together at the table. No one eats until everyone is ready and the blessing is said. Everyone helps set the table and everyone helps clean up (to the best of their ability–you can’t expect much from a 3 year old). They will not watch hours of daily television.

    These are conscious decisions, but the temptation of the glowing screen is strong. Due to unusual circumstances, my 3 year old watched more television yesterday than she normally does in a week. This morning she bounced out of bed 30 minutes earlier than normal and excitedly announced she wanted to watch TV. We had to tell her no because we do not want her to develop the habit of mindless television watching. She cried, but my job is to raise her well not to satisfy her whims.

  12. Jenny says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with DJY.
    My sister says, “Facebook is a great way to spy on people you don’t really want to talk to.”

  13. irishgirl says:

    I’ve had a laptop since 2004 [bought it from my share of my late mother’s life insurance money]. I had internet access at home [dial-up] until late 2007, when my sister and brother-in-law changed ISPs. Now I have to go to the library and connect to the wi-fi-it’s free, and I’m not limited time-wise, unlike on the library computers. If I change my daily routine and not go to the library, I don’t go crazy because I can’t get online-I make the sacrifice and do it the next time I’m at the library!

    I’ve had several cellphones-the first one I got free, and that because the job I was in at the time had its outgoing phone lines go down once, and I was concerned about being in touch with my mother if she got sick. Now I have a phone where I can add minutes. I keep it off for the most part because I don’t want to have it ring in places like the library or in church [that drives me nuts!], as well as avoiding certain ‘unwanted callers’ [like social workers]!

    I don’t have TV now because I’m not connected to the digital revolution-from what I’ve read in the papers, it’s not working as well as it should. I get my news now either from the one paper I buy [the NY Daily News-yeah, I know it’s a tabloid] or online at the lbirary.

    And I make the Morning Offering-right after I’m out of the shower and dressed. And I do something on waking first thing that I read in the blue Pieta prayerbook: I make the sign of the cross when I get out of bed! And I do the same thing at night before I get into bed, too.

    No Facebook and no Twitter….I have a hard time with the tech stuff I already have!

  14. Bill in Texas says:

    My day starts with three Glorias, said as soon as my feet swing out of bed. Then the biological necessities for the dogs and for myself, and personal hygiene (just for me, the dogs are indifferent about such matters). Then The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Invitatory and Prime), Morning Offerings (Brown Scapular and Sacred Heart), various prayers (Miraculous Medal, re-consecration to Mary, the Green Scapular prayer for myself (and for some people in my family who have left the church or who have some troubles, and who have Green Scapulars in their houses but don’t know it or don’t know why I gave them one), prayer to St. Joseph and to St. Joseph for the dying, prayers for the Holy Souls, and three Hail Marys in honor of the Holy Trinity). Walk the big dog while listening to the “pray-as-you-go” podcast from Jesuit Media Initiative, go to Mass. Later in the day (if I don’t get bound up in work) comes a Rosary and Divine Mercy (at least the “Blood and Water” prayer at 3 pm).

    Email, twitter, etc. all wait until about 9:30, after all the above and after breakfast.

    In the evening, just before bed, an Examination of Conscience, Act of Contrition, three more Hail Marys in honor of the Holy Trinity, and Compline from the Little Office.

    I was, for about a year, praying Lauds, Matins, the Little Hours, and Vespers from the Little Office, but it’s very difficult to keep that up and get my work done.

  15. JaneC says:

    We no longer have a television, and my cell phone is rarely turned on (or charged, or in a known location). But when I am at home, my computer is very often on before I have breakfast, and remains on until I go to bed at night. My husband’s is the same.

    Still, I am apparently not totally addicted to the computer. When I am visiting my parents, I rarely spend more than half an hour online, and that generally not until after lunch. Why I can’t discipline myself to do that at home, I don’t know.

  16. Baron Korf says:

    This is partly why I don’t have a computer or a TV in my room. It took some adjusting after college (bedroom/kitchen/computer/tv/desk all in one room), but was worth it. I don’t feel the need to keep up with the tweets and updates and the like. I think the devil likes it when we are too busy with frivolous things, it makes it easier to forget God, or at least prayer.

    And Praying Grace before meals is always a wonder pause in a busy day, especially at work.

  17. Jane says:

    I really like the internet, but at the same time I long for a tranquil life in the early 20th Century in the Australian countryside, on a farm next to a Catholic Church like my great grandmother!

    Being on a mobile telephone first thing in the morning is very unattractive. They are useful in times of need, but that is the only use that I have for them. If they ring during Mass, the owner of the mobile phone is in BIG TROUBLE in this parish.

    Right now I have passed over a cup of tea, which used to be absolutely a requirement after getting out of bed, in favour of checking email and some websites, however I will go and have a cup now. The cup of tea has been postponed not cancelled.

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