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Is a digital smorgasbord good for you?

When I was younger and my metabolism was a good deal faster, The Old Country Buffet was one of my very favorite places to have a meal. Growing up, my family's idea of fine dining was always "mass quantities of food at a reasonable price." Fast service and good lighting were bonuses. I still get a craving for OCB's bread pudding with soft serve now and then.

I was thinking about the "all you can eat" model of consumption this weekend listening to National Public Radio. The focus of the Weekend Edition was the impact digital connectedness has had on our interpersonal relationships. (The interview with Sherry Turkle was excellent.

The long and short of most of the stories was that continuous face-in-the-phone, the conversation-by-text, the romance by tweet is too new, too un-studied to be pronounced as positive or negative in most people's lives. How NPR!

I can't help but thinking that "unlimited text and talk" can't be much better for a person than "all you can eat." Even those of us who feel we have pretty good self-control may find ourselves digitally immersed more than we wish. (See Jeff Utech's great post asking "What does it mean to disconnect?") 

I've asked before

What would happen if every tweet cost a quarter; every blog post cost five dollars; every e-mail a dime to the writer. Wouldn't we all be a bit more discriminating in what we sent?"

Added to this - what if every text and minute of call time was a nickel? 

I've also had a chance to live (temporarily) with very high cost Internet access now and then:

I’m writing this blog post offline. Why? Because here at the Safari Park hotel just outside Nairobi, Internet access is sold in one hour blocks at 10,000 Kenyan Shillings a block. About $13.

It’s changing my Internet use already. I’ve become suddenly more discriminating about what I read online, what I download to read later, and what I skip altogether.

What I am asking myself is why do I not treat my time as valuable as my money, even when there is cheap 24/7 Internet access at home?

One can always find another dollar, but our hours are finite.

In my last couple posts, I've been advocating for greater internet access via BYOD in schools and classrooms.

Is there a balance that we proponents are ignoring?

Would you be reading this if it meant a financial as well as temporal cost?


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Reader Comments (3)

Scarcity and Abundance, that's basically what you're exploring here.

I don't know much about economics but it seems that's a connection to value here as well. When you think about fuel prices over the past 30 years, i don't think it's changed our driving habits all that much. I'm not sure how much it would change our online habits either but having experienced lousy connections while traveling, I've certainly had to rethink my time online to maximize productivity.

I'm about to ramble so I'll simply end by saying there are many things we have in abundance that don't lose value. For you, I'm guessing hugs from your grand kids are still as valuable as ever no matter how many you get. And for the record, I'd pay to read your blog. Not much, but I'd pay. ;)

February 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDean Shareski

I grew up in a family of eight (six kids) so the Sunday after church smorgasbord was not only fun but pretty much took care of lunch a dinner for us.

I was packing my briefcase today and realize that I now have my own netbook, an iPad, a Kindle Fire and a Nook - with my iPhone in my pocket. Maybe I need to stop and think...

February 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Hi Dean,

Great perspective. I loved "For you, I'm guessing hugs from your grand kids are still as valuable as ever no matter how many you get." Absolutely - and happily they are not too fattening.


Hi Kenn,

I find myself with my laptop, iPad, iPhone and Kindle when I travel for both presenting and vacation. And I complain when my wife takes more than 2 pairs of shoes!


February 12, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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