OGDEN -- Author William Powers turns off his smart machines every weekend, powering down for quality time with his family and to be alone with his thoughts.
The former Washington Post journalist and author of "Hamlet's BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age" spoke to Weber State University students this week.
"I look forward to Fridays, then I look forward to Mondays," Powers said. "Finding a balance that fits your life is important."
He said unplugging from the Internet and from our in-boxes and instant messages is healthy for humans, who evolved to deal with life in a more direct way, but he's all for using the best technology we have to be creative and productive.
What is missing for many of us is balance.
"We only developed written language about 2,500 years ago," Powers said. "Our brains evolved for the situations we had 100,000 years ago."
Now, with smartphones, he said, "we are literally walking around with the world in our pockets."
Powers noted that, today, thanks to cellphones or social media networks, we can connect instantly with people on the other side of the planet.
"We have learned through technology to create a version of the world in our heads, which we are constantly updating," one that scientists describe as "a movie in our brains, representative of reality."
For a curious species such as humans, constant updates can be addictive.
"In another way, it's a prison," Powers said. "People believe they cannot go off the grid without losing their sense of the world" and missing something important.
Public alarm about new technologies is nothing new.
Greek philosopher Socrates (469-399 B.C.) was upset about the development of written language and feared people would stop talking about and debating the arts, Powers said.
Socrates' teachings would have been lost had they not been written down by his student, Plato.
Playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was more accepting of technology and even gifted one of his characters, Hamlet, with a table, a pocket-sized plaster tablet. Table owners could their scratch their notes using a stick, then erase the writing by smoothing out the surface.
Powers named his book "Hamlet's BlackBerry" after the primitive device.
"People said they couldn't hold a conversation without their table in one hand," Powers said. "It was the time of the Gutenberg press, and people were starting to realize they couldn't keep up with everything that was written. They had to take notes."
Similar cries of alarm arose when the telegraph was invented and when phones came into common use. Social critics asked how could people be expected to focus on their work and life, and resist getting caught up in the new abundance of information on happenings near and far.
Powers made it clear he is not against technology, but the feeling may not have been mutual. His talk was delayed by a computer that resisted showing his PowerPoint presentation, then his microphone had to be coaxed into working. Next, lights flickered, then cellphones rang in the audience, drawing quiet laughter from the crowd.
Powers' most recent project is working with a startup academic company called Bluefin Labs, which studies Twitter and other social media feeds to analyze the most commonly used words during peak usage.
His group will be on "Good Morning America" Monday, to reveal the most-common words used on Twitter during Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast.
Powers' new Bluefin job may just force him to plug into the Web on weekends, he confessed.
"We may have to adjust. I can't really prescribe what will work for anyone else. The best solutions (for achieving balance) happen on an individual level.
"Find what works for you, then share it."