Tech Is Cutting Us Off From the World

May 8, 2011
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Tech Is Cutting Us Off From the World

When news first broke of Osama Bin Laden’s death, where were you? Were you on your computer refreshing your browser to find the latest news? Were you glued to your television set watching your favorite cable news channel? Were you checking for updates on your smartphone?

[Image credit: Graham Lampa]

Any one of those activities would have made perfect sense. After all, it was a huge story that swept the globe in minutes.

Unlike many of you, however, I didn’t find out until the next morning. It wasn’t because I was asleep before the news broke, and it wasn’t even because I don’t pay attention to the news -- I typically visit my favorite world news sites several times a day.

No, I missed the breaking news of Bin Laden’s killing because I was on Netflix streaming a movie. And then after that, I went to my DVR and turned on a show that I had recorded.

When I woke up the next morning, realizing what I had missed, I was struck by what had occurred. The latest (and supposedly greatest) technology available in my living room not only cut me off from the biggest story of the year, but it kept me totally out of the loop for hours.

I guess you could say that I was a victim of my love for tech.

Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. I had no idea a severe thunderstorm was barrelling down on my house last year until the rain started falling and I got far enough through the show I was watching to catch up to the first warning -- 20 minutes late.

Now, as many of you might (correctly) say, it’s not hard for me to turn my TV over to a news channel every now and then to ensure I don’t miss a big story. It also might help if I watch more live programming.

But with all the technology at our disposal today, we don’t have to. We can record those news programs and watch them when it’s more convenient. We can boot up Netflix and stream a film or television show that was released years ago, simply because we didn’t get around to watching it when it was first released.

What a change. Back in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, there was no one like me in the United States. People around the country had just a few channels, and all of them were tuned in to his assassination. The only folks that missed the news were those who were outside -- and that’s only if they didn’t have their radios on.

As we often point out, we have more news outlets at our disposal today than ever, thanks to the Internet and more widespread programming. But it’s clear now that real-time news viewing in the living room just isn’t what it used to be. And I’ve realized that most of my news gathering is done over the Web, and not in the living room.

So, as much as I might not like to admit it, I might just miss the next big news story this year. And I suppose I have Netflix, DVRs, game consoles, Blu-ray players, and countless other products in my house to blame.


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