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Reporter’s notebook: She’s come unplugged

BlackBerry addicts of the world unite: You have nothing to lose but your thumb pain! One TODAY show producer writes about her attempt to unplug for a segment on “over-wired” people.
/ Source: TODAY

If you’ve ever lost track of time while mindlessly clicking and linking and Googling and texting and e-mailing and forwarding and blogging, you may consider yourself to be “over-wired." And perhaps you are none too happy about it.

So, when I read (offline no less) about a workshop that could help the obsessively wired pull the plug, I had to do a story about it. Certainly not for me but for everyone else around me who could benefit from the zero-tech psychological tools the workshop employs to help bring balance to the over-wired. (TODAY will run a segment on this on Wednesday, Feb. 20.)

We focused on Ariel, a woman in Seattle who spends so much time on her computers and PDA that she’s worried she isn’t “being present in the present.” She’s got her eyes so focused on her screens, she can’t savor her real life.

Just about everyone I talked to had a high-tech horror story. There’s the daughter who’d rather text than actually talk to her friends; a husband who won’t put down his BlackBerry, even at a swanky and impossible-to-get-into restaurant. There's also a reporter who scrolls through PDA messages during an interview. (Not anyone now on the show!)

When I pitched this story, I did it with a certain amount of smugness bordering on Luddite elitism. I would never let myself become so dependent, so obsessed, so hooked on any gadget. One friend even dubbed me the “Analog Gal.” It’s true. I still have a TV with a dial. I don’t know how to text on my cell phone. I pay all my bills with a stamp. I’m what you call a late adopter. If technology were a kid, I’d be adopting it just in time for its driver’s license.

Of course, I’m certainly not raging against the machine. I blog. I e-mail. I once successfully Google-whacked. I wake up at 6 a.m. and log in for work messages before I even brush my teeth. (Mostly it’s to make sure I’m not assigned a “save your marriage” segment. I’m so woefully ill-equipped to cover that, I’d have to call in sick.)

So there I was at this Seattle workshop, which was filled with folks seeking to get more disconnected from their constant access. Still, several “sneak eaters” snuck out to use their cell phones. One guy even had the chutzpah to text in the middle of a presentation. Feeling rather self-righteous, I knew I had way more self-control than that. How could anyone let life slip away bit by byte?

Then, during a quiet period of introspection for the participants ... BUSTED! The facilitator snapped a (digital) photo of me busy on my BlackBerry. But, I’m certain it was some news emergency. Or maybe I just had to know what my friends were ordering at that cute sushi place in Boston. (MapQuest distance: 3048.6 miles and 45 hours driving time.) Or was it the score of the Indiana-Minnesota basketball game that I was checking?

No, I sadly recall. I was actually forwarding a forwarded joke to the cameraman who, you will notice, is conveniently located right next to me (see above picture). Apparently, the “Analog Gal” bytes the dust.