The author of THE DIGITAL DIET, Daniel Sieberg, is a friend and a news-career colleague of mine. While that carries some friendly bias into this review, it also makes it possible for me to vouch for the premise of his book: His work as a tech journalist has created a searing exposure to personal technology's most seductive addictions.
Organized into a month of staged concepts and exercises, Daniel's program includes elements of detox, developing a "virtual weight index," and relearning 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.
Not many 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 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 on dry land. You don't have to be what TV-speak calls a "tech guru" to know the allure of the LED-pulsing, 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 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 that when we hear of "tech advances," that often means advances into our time, our space, our privacy, and our peace of mind. 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 see on TV, powering through CES, a true expert in the field. If he can beat the charger-choked craze that such a job becomes, the rest of us can, too.
(2) And his writings here come from way beyond the glam-soaked, neon-buzzing, stage-roaming CEO interviews and tablet wars. There's a lot of heart in his writing.
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 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.