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Ghost Canyon

Book Reviews
'The Digital Diet'
By: Daniel Sieberg
(Kindle Edition / Three Rivers Press / $9.99)

Description: We all know someone who needs a digital diet. Technology has overwhelmed our daily lives to the point of constant distraction. Many of us can no longer focus on a single task or face-to-face conversation without wanting to reach out—or retreat—to the virtual world every few minutes.

Science and technology reporter and recovering digital addict Daniel Sieberg has devised a foolproof 4-step plan to help you regain control, focus, and true connection in your life.

Step 1//Re: Think:

Consider how technology has overwhelmed our society and the effect it’s had on your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Step 2//Re: Boot:

Take stock of your digital intake using Sieberg’s Virtual Weight Index and step back from the device.

Step 3//Re: Connect:

Focus on restoring the relationships that have been harmed by the technology in your life.

Step 4//Re: Vitalize:

Learn how to live with technology—the healthy way, by optimizing your time spent e-mailing, texting, on Facebook, and web surfing.

This program will enable families to communicate better, employees to be more productive, and friends to stay in touch. Sieberg teaches us how to manage and use the technology in our lives to our advantage, without letting it control us.

Verdict: I should disclose here that the author of THE DIGITAL DIET, Daniel Sieberg, is a close friend and a news-career colleague of mine. While that certainly carries some friendly bias into this review, it also makes it possible for me to vouch for the personal premise of his book: His work as a tech journalist has created a sometimes searing exposure to personal technology's most seductive addictions.

Organized into a month of staged concepts and exercises, Daniel's program to free yourself from online obesity includes elements of detox, developing a "virtual weight index," and relearning with a few tricks to connect with important people directly. And, mercifully, there's no "Back your car over that iPhone immediately!" command. Daniel understands we're not going to get far by trying to reverse our collective march into the digital sunset. That course has been charted. Instead, he wants you to learn to live with a "sustainable intake" of tech influence, not be staggered and run over by ringtones and Cloud-fails.

Of course, few of us will experience the kind of epiphany about our tech habits that Daniel had during a video shoot he did off West End, Grand Bahama, observed by a large and apparently unplugged tiger shark. "I actually had the urge to use my BlackBerry underwater," Daniel writes, "while a fearsome predator stared me down. What the hell was wrong with me?"

What was "wrong" with him can hit any of us. You don't have to be what TV-speak calls a "tech guru" or to dive with sharks for television specials to know the allure of the LED-pulsing, forever churning techno reef our world has become. Always a next version, a next generation, a next iteration, the better screen, the faster connectivity, the higher pixel count, and schools and schools and schools of fishy folks all swimming in precisely the same direction. (They bonded while standing in line at 3 a.m. to buy the next great piece of bait dangled in front of them.)

Daniel "got it honest," coming to his work with a native interest in computers and those far-flung inter-webs. Where I think he does his best work for the networks is in blowing away the PR smoke screens used by the persuasion-profiling corporate forces behind the roll-outs. He knows better than we do that when we speak of "tech advances," we often mean advances into our time, our space, our privacy, and our peace of mind. And I confess that for all the tricks I've learned to find focus and the mental room I need for creative work, I'm still hand-over-fist with my tech, teetering daily between DIGITAL DIET-ing and G4 grazing.

Daniel's book has been good for me in this regard. (I've had an advance copy to peruse.) And if you are among the folks who are really troubled by a sense of kneejerk enslavement to tech's treats, you can find hope here, too. Two factors are in your favor:

(1) Daniel Sieberg is frequently the "gadget guy" you just saw hurling one device after another over his shoulder as he powered through CES, a true expert in the field. If he can develop a program to help himself beat the charger-choked craze that such a job becomes, then the rest of us can beat it, too.

(2) I also hope you'll notice that his writings here come from way beyond the glam-soaked, neon-buzzing, stage-roaming CEO interviews and tablet wars. It's the sheer heart with which Daniel writes.

Clean, spirited, and never less than committed, Daniel Sieberg's text comes from a point of personal investment, at times of real crisis. He cares about your experience in the jangling jungle because he has to work there every damned day. In this book, you meet a fellow who's had to figure out how to remember that his life is deeper than the hurly-burly of talk shows and those fad-fueled liveshots.

I don't, actually, think this is the end of Dan's journey. It reads to me as a prelude to new adjustments, not just a farewell to old ones. But if the trip he's on in life can offer us, from time to time, something as rare as this book--a how-to guide with genuine conviction and personable concern--then we're lucky to share the ride with him.

Review by: Porter Anderson