Kathleen's Reviews > Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

Hamlet's BlackBerry by William  Powers
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's review
Jul 16, 2010

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Read in July, 2010

Picked this up after I spotted the catchy title. I think most people would agree with this book's premise: we're so connected to our digital devices we're losing connectedness with our inner selves and our families. Recent books like The Shallows also address the fact that we are constantly moving between tasks like reading email, surfing the web, twittering, answering text messages, IM'ing and that is affecting the way our brains are processing information and it's turning us into a society of ADD sufferers.

You could probably skip the first part of this book without losing much. The author lays out his case for the above, and tells some personal anecdotes to illustrate his points. The middle part was the most interesting for me: a sort of walk through history looking at the major developments in how people connected and communicated and an analysis of famous figures from each age and how they coped with, excelled in, or feared the changes. Starting with Plato's writings, we get to hear about how Socrates viewed the new (to Greece) form of communication: written language. Because Socrates' world was so local (he rarely left his city) and verbal (the learned scholars of the day sat at his feet to hear his lectures and "dialog"), he was worried and intrigued by a student who was pondering a written copy of another scholar's speech. No longer did the scholar have to be present physically for his ideas and words to be considered and pondered.

The author then goes on to look at Seneca, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, and Thoreau. All very interesting and thought-provoking studies on the evolution of connectedness and social media.

The conclusion? The self-help portion at the end was no big surprise. Schedule a time to regularly disconnect and nurture your inner life and personal relationships. Well, duh. Take a walk with a friend, read a book, unplug the modem each weekend. You get the idea.
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message 1: by Marc D. (new)

Marc D. Thanks for the review. Title and topic sounded interesting but ultimately I know really what to do without having to read the book.

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