Jan. 19, 2011 at 1:01 PM ET
In the new book "The Winter of Our Disconnect" (Penguin, $16.95) Susan Maushart recounts the six months of family life after she removed the distractions of modern technology from her teenage son and daughter. Why?
First, because there's no point in doing anything for six months or longer unless you've got a book deal.
I, myself, just sold the movie rights to my own six-month "Eat, Pray, Pontificate" journey in which I spent every weekend on the couch watching LogoTV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" marathons — even though Saturday episodes are almost always repeated on Sunday and I already own "Buffy the Vampire Slayer — The Complete Series (Seasons 1-7) with Bonus 40 Disc." (Christina Hendricks is set to star. She looks fabulous in sweat pants and paint-stained T-shirt.)
Second, modern technology, the Internet, iWhatsists that connect you to the Internet, all of it, is bad! Bad! Bad! Bad! In poorly posited theory, anyway. In practice, the Internet proves once again to be just a tool — and not "tool" in the derogatory, "boy that dude is a jerk" meaning of the word.
According to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Internet users are more likely than others to be active in some kind of voluntary group or organization:
"Across the board, technology users are more likely than non users to be involved in almost all the kinds of groups in the Pew Internet survey. Moreover, the Internet is now deeply embedded in group activities and in how people create, join, participate in, and sustain groups. It is also implicated in the fluidity of group involvement as people sample groups, lurk in groups, and leave groups if they do not like the tone of group activity or the direction of the group."
According to Pew, it breaks down like this:
What kind of groups, you ask? Lots — all kinds, for that matter. From parent groups such as PTA, to youth groups, such as Boy Scouts. There are fan groups and gaming communities, as well as ethnic or cultural groups and book clubs. Here are the top five groups where social media users are more likely to be active, Pew says:
Such activities and groups aren't headline grabbers, not like organizing text donation drives via Twitter or getting Betty White to host "Saturday Night Live" via Facebook petitions. Nonetheless, they provide important services and outlets within communities large and small — and the Internet helps make it happen.
As fun as it is to blame the latest technological achievement for society's demise — heck, we've been doing it for centuries — the Internet, like the printing press and the wheel, is an amoral tool that is now essential to how we live.
Cut the Internet wholesale from your life — or the life of your kids — and you risk cutting your family off from the world. Use responsibly and in moderation, and you open up the world … or, some kind of voluntary group or organization.