When Should We Take a Digital Break?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Maybe we could all use a break—a moment out of our day to zone out, stop listening and take a mini vacation—if only in our minds.

That’s what U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) did Tuesday during the three hour meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. For a few minutes, he took an electronic vacation to the gambling tables of Atlantic City, courtesy of a video poker game on his smartphone.

His little break didn't go unnoticed—a Washington Post reporter snapped a picture of the senator playing his game and posted it online.

McCain, in turn, made light of it all by tweeting the below:



Is McCain’s video poker round a sign that he needs a break? And if so, is a device the best way to get that break?

Sherry Turkle, MIT technology and society specialist, weighs in. In addition to her work with MIT, Turkle is the author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More of Technology and Less of Each Other.”


Sherry Turkle

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer


T.J. Raphael

Comments [3]

Gray S

I feel comfortable taking a small screen digital vacation during meetings in which we are NOT DISCUSSING MILITARY ACTION WHICH WILL LEAD TO THE DEATHS OF HUMANS. And even in my comparatively harmless sales function, management takes a dim view of staff doing so.

Which is to say, "Senator McCain! We aren't paying you to play video poker while you're supposed to be attending to matters of life and death in our name!"

If he wants to waste time and collect a paycheck he should get out of the Senate and into his inevitable lobbyist job.

Sep. 05 2013 02:42 PM
Jerrold Richards from Lyle, Washington

Certainly families and other local social groups need such tech free times and places, times for IRL, if such ancient and well-established forms of social organization are to continue in a healthy manner.

A culture in which the people are constantly in search of fancy stimulus, in which people cannot handle and prosper from the mundane and the boring, who cannot see the value in the mundane and the boring as an absolutely essential part of IRL, such a culture probably is doomed to go off the rails, off a cliff.

Sep. 05 2013 01:00 PM
Jerrold Richards from Lyle, Washington

In timed chess tournaments, texting can result in forfeit. First ring of a cell phone can result in a time penalty, and the second incident can result in forfeit.

I have heard recently of some restaurants imposing cell and internet free hours.

I think we need more such tech free times and spaces. I am optimistic that society will more or less move in this direction.

For example, a college could have a rule that texting in class can result in one grade less than would otherwise be earned for that class. From an A to a B, for example.

Sep. 05 2013 12:44 PM

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