'The Big Disconnect' has much to recommend it. I whole heartedly encourage any parent or soon-to-be parent to read this book. In a very readable and t'The Big Disconnect' has much to recommend it. I whole heartedly encourage any parent or soon-to-be parent to read this book. In a very readable and thoughtful way, Ms. Steiner Adair outlines the impact that technology has on family life. The bulk of the book is chronological walk through, from birth to adolescences, discussing the impact, both negative and positive, that screens, the Internet and other technology can have child development. And parents and young adults are not exempt from scrutiny either. She begins the book with a startling look at how parents' relationships to their gadgets can negatively impact family interactions and the psychological growth of their children. This seems to be her underlying argument, that adults acceptance of the pervasiveness of technology in modern life, and their growing addiction to it, has created a laissez-faire attitude about the constant influx of stimuli and information into even the youngest of lives (eighteen month olds playing with apps, ten year olds emailing each other porn??). And this attitude, this lack of filtering or even examination, is creating a dangerous environment for the most vulnerable among us. I would stress that this book is not another "don't let your kid watch too much TV" warning. As I stated earlier, she does outline several cases where educational programming, the use of computers in schools and other adult moderated interactions with the wide world of growing information access has been very helpful for children. She points out that programs like Skype can extend the family circle to far flung relatives in other states or countries. She also takes pains to point out that social media has helped troubled teenagers find help and support outside the family during crisis. She strikes an excellent balance and avoids writing a panicky, Chicken Little-like tract. Although some of her anecdotes from her private therapy practice are terrifying and disturbing, her overall tone is a positive one. She is encouraging and upbeat, reassuring the reader (particularly in the final chapters) that a balance can be struck, that we can integrate technology into our families. But we must do so by placing the emphasis in our daily lives on face-to-face interactions, valuing family time over screen time, respecting our children as individuals and creating space for what she calls "slow time no time always enough time". I would venture that anyone who reacts badly to her argument or advice in this book is in denial about their addiction to screens and needs to take a step back. How can a person be offended to be told that they should put off checking their email in favor of cuddling with their toddler? I have only two qualms with this book. The first may stem from my already limited interaction with media and technology. She always refers to the media-Internet-screen-game conglomerate as "tech". I found this short hand to be a bit disingenuous. And she had a few other trendy phrases that are perhaps passed around the Internet that I had never heard before that I found jarring. This is admittedly a personal style preference. The word "technology" would have worked just as well for me. I don't know if this is common parlance or something she coined, but it grated on me every time I saw it (which was all the time in this book). My second objection is a bit more serious. Her lack of footnotes and citations in the text of the book is hard for me to swallow. This is, after all, a controversial topic. Many people do not want to believe that they way they and their children interact with their gadgets is potentially harmful. If I come across a disturbing statistic, I want to know where it came from so I can judge the validity of the source. She does have a notes section, where all of her sources are citied, but it is organized by page only, not citations. This makes it more difficult to back up an argument, or investigate the research she is using. To see the words "Research indicates" in the text without an immediate clue as to what research or by whom weakens the argument. And having to comb through the sources by page number is at best annoying. I assume she chose to present her book in the way she did because it seems more accessible and readable. I would argue that people can choose to skip footnotes if they like, but for those of us who may be facing opposition from family and friends about the role technology plays in our lives, it is helpful to have all the information on hand, to be able to go to the source immediately. I would rather present people with a thorough and scholarly work to defend my position than another (seemingly) pop-psychology book on parenting. Nonetheless, "The Big Disconnect" is a thorough and scholarly work (even if it doesn't always look like one) and even the most iPhone or Blackberry addicted adult should put aside their defensiveness and read it. We have a habit in our culture of complaining that we don't have enough time, that our lives are too stressful and yet we avoid taking practical steps to slow ourselves down and reconnect with the people we love. Ms. Steiner-Adair through the accumulation of careful research and anecdotes presents us with flexible working solutions to calm our and our children's overstimulated brains and rediscover "slow time no time always enough time"....more
I did not find reading this book to be a "chore". Although I must admit during the the last fourth of the novel I had a hard time keeping my reading sI did not find reading this book to be a "chore". Although I must admit during the the last fourth of the novel I had a hard time keeping my reading slow and patient. After all the threads had been laid out by Chabon I desperately wanted to see how he was going to bring everything to a conclusion. I kept trying to speed read, looking for plot points, rather than reading slowly and enjoying his delightfully erudite prose. But that is my failing - too many quick reads, a mind made lazy by too much visual stimulation and not enough deep reading. I kept forcing myself to go back to the top of a paragraph to see what I had missed. And it was worth it.
This is not a fast read, and if it were to be boiled down to it's essentials it would lose all of its great qualities. The beauty of Chabon's writing is in the details, the development of his quirky but somehow completely recognizable characters. He is not a cinematic writer, merely painting word pictures. You actually need a decent vocabulary and possibly also a dictionary to read him. Not to mention a wide ranging knowledge base of both high and low culture.
The ending felt bittersweet but true to life. I won't bother with spoilers here, but I will say that I was sad to put the book down and walk away from that world and those characters. Things were not tied up in a neat little bow, but the conclusion rang all the more true for that. It was a long strange journey for each character in the book, one I was happy to take with all of them, and it felt like I was parting from friends in the end.
A quick post script. This sentence may have been my favorite in the entire novel: 'His smile was easy and warm, his eyes as cold as pennies at the bottom of a well'.
If you try and scan for plot points, if you speed read looking for nouns and verbs, if you are trying to construct the 30 minute sitcom version of the story in your brain, you miss sentences like that.