To elide that one of the reasons we spend so many hours in front of our screens is that we have to misses the key point about our relationship with modern technology. The upper middle class (i.e. the NYT reader) is WORKING MORE HOURS and having to stay more connected TO WORK than ever before. This is a problem with the way we approach labor, not our devices. Our devices enabled employers to make their employees work 24/7, but it is our strange American political and cultural systems that have allowed them to do so.
And worse, when Richtel blames the gadgets themselves, he channels the anxiety and anger that people feel about 24/7 work into a different and defanged fear over their gadgets. The only possible answer becomes, “Put your gadget down,” not “Organize politically and in civil society to change our collective relationship to work.”
What if people aren’t addicted to constant communication because their work demands it, but because they crave the illusion of indispensability? We should remain open to the possibility that some people whose work is alienating and empty sustain themselves on feeling that someone out there needs them, needs their attention, and might reach out for it at any moment.