What do you think it is?

Globalization? Population growth? Terrorism? Inequality?

Nope. None of these.


Oh, Murray’s off on one of his digital tirades again, is he?

Nope. Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist, actually.

In his most recent column, Resist the InternetDouthat argues that Internet enslavement is the biggest threat to the human future.

He highlights how “our day-to-day, minute-to-minute existence is dominated by a compulsion to check email and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram with a frequency that bears no relationship to any communicative need.”

Used within reasonable limits, of course, these devices also offer us new graces. But we are not using them within reasonable limits. They are the masters; we are not. They are built to addict us, as the social psychologist Adam Alter’s new book “Irresistible” points out — and to madden us, distract us, arouse us and deceive us. We primp and perform for them as for a lover; we surrender our privacy to their demands; we wait on tenterhooks for every “like.” The smartphone is in the saddle, and it rides mankind.

He calls for “a social and political movement — digital temperance, if you will — to take back some control.” Only a movement, he says, can save us from the tyrant in our pocket.

Some of the measures he advocates are:

  • Create more spaces in which internet use is illegal, discouraged or taboo.
  • Toughen laws against cellphone use in cars.
  • Keep computers out of college lecture halls (I’ve already done this in my classes).
  • Put special “phone boxes” in restaurants where patrons would be expected to deposit their devices.
  • Confiscate smartphones being used in museums and libraries and cathedrals.
  • Create corporate norms that strongly discourage checking email in a meeting.
  • Get computers — all of them — out of elementary schools and let kids learn from books.
  • The age of consent should be 16, not 13, for Facebook accounts.
  • Kids under 16 shouldn’t be allowed on gaming networks.
  • High school students shouldn’t bring smartphones to school.
  • Kids under 13 shouldn’t have them at all.
  • “Voice-only” phone plans available for minors.

That’s not just a movement; it’s not just a digital resistance; it’s a revolution, but one that’s sorely needed.

Resist the Internet by Ross Douthat.

For more resources on Digital Detox, click here.