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How is the immediate accessibility of news and information via PDA’s, especially information of a personal and intimate nature impacting society?

In the past day I have read an article outlining how the chemical reaction engendered by being closely connected to your PDA may result in “addiction”, http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2011/08/08/social-media-the-pursuit-of-happiness/, and how a psychologist in the U.S. just presented a paper on the potential damage that Facebook can do to a developing psyche, http://mashable.com/2011/08/08/facebook-teens-study/.   Here’s a new and scary article about toddlers and children Kids & Technology: The Developmental Health Debate.

To a certain extent, I can describe how the connection to social media has affected me personally.  During office lunches, almost as much time is spent consulting Blackberries as is dedicated to personal interaction.  Pedestrians stroll along consulting their phones, rarely making eye-contact and, sometimes, narrowly avoiding collisions as they neglect to pay attention to where they are going.  I can now learn all manner of personal and private information about my seat-mate on the bus as they participate in conversations better held in less public environments.  During dinners with friends, it’s rare to get through an entire meal without someone surreptitiously checking their phone.

All this is balanced by the security of knowing that my family and friends can reach me anytime in an emergency.  Or, the fact that I don’t ever have to be bored because I can listen to music, do research, check-in, play games, watch videos, track expenses, plan a trip, take notes or otherwise occupy my down time.

Like the impact of the telephone, the TV and the internet, it seems that smart phones, tablets and laptops and the connectivity they provide are having a profound effect on society.  The benefits are awesome and uncountable.  The downside will only come to light over the longer term as trends and tendencies emerge and are tracked/analysed by research.

The pace of life has sped up dramatically.  I can literally work anywhere and I have the tools to be far more productive than even 5 years ago.  What I am reluctant to sacrifice is common courtesy, the opportunity for quality personal interaction (no matter how brief), the occasion to observe and learn about the behaviour of my fellow man.

I want to continue to be an active participant in life, rather than a fringe member of society taking my cues from what I learn on my electronic device.  I want to retain my independence in terms of  forming opinions,  my individuality as a human being and I am willing to live up to the associated responsibilities entailed.

Am I alone?