New column over at The Rotarian Magazine
In 1986, a man named Christopher Knight walked into the Maine woods and found an isolated spot to pitch a tent. He remained there until 2013, when he was caught stealing food from a summer camp. In all those years, the man known as the North Pond Hermit never talked to another person. His world was limited to his immediate surroundings.
When journalist Michael Finkel interviewed Knight for his book The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, he asked Knight what he thought of the changes in technology since he had removed himself from contact with the modern world. Knight was unimpressed. “People earnestly say to me here, ‘Mr. Knight, we have cell phones now, and you’re going to really enjoy them.’ That’s their enticement for me to rejoin society. … I have no desire. And what about a text message? Isn’t that just using a telephone as a telegraph? We’re going backwards.”
After Knight dropped out of society, there was a revolution in the way we get news: Every hour of every day, messages and alerts arrive in our computers and on our phones. Most of us accept this as progress. But for 27 years, Knight existed in a bubble, even as the rest of us became more and more enmeshed in the flow of news speeding into our lives. We now spend an average of 11 hours a day “interacting with media,” staring at our screens and reading about things happening far away.
In and of itself, this is not a bad thing. We need to be informed in order to help others who might need it. Yet there is a cost to this nonstop influx of news. Constantly monitoring the news can affect our emotional state, our energy level, our mental health, and even our worldview.