Sometimes Jeff Percody feels like he's drowning and nothing can save him except the one thing that keeps pulling him under.
Sitting at the center of the Peachtree Mall food court, a cold slice of cheese pizza and a flat bottle of root beer in front of him, the 28-year-old Percody can't put away his BlackBerry long enough to eat lunch. With tiny purple earbuds blaring Lil' Wayne and a cell phone that's dancing across the table, constantly vibrating from new e-mails, phone calls and various online updates, what was supposed to be a quick break has become anything but.
"I can't get away even when I get away," he says with a smile, keeping one eye trained on the cell phone. "I feel guilty when I'm using my phone and even more guilty when I'm not. It's a weird way to live.”
Swarming around him like worker bees are people of all ages, races, backgrounds and ethnicities. Some are walking with purpose, while others roam aimlessly about the mall but virtually all are clutching cell phones, either holding them out like divining rods while texting or trying to talk over the roar of weekend shoppers.
Cell phones, laptops, iPods and the Internet with its myriad of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Linkedin have changed the way people relate to one another. We are perpetually connected, tethered to invisible lines of digital communication that can be difficult to sever.
During a recent study at the University of Maryland, 200 students were asked to abstain from all forms of media for 24 hours. After the “24 Hours Unplugged,” they were asked to blog on private class websites about their experience.
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