I’m not prepared to give up my gadgets for a week but I know that if I needed to I could. I can quite anytime (isn’t that what all addicts say?). It seems today’s technology may be determining not only how much or how often we are “plugged in” but it could be “rewiring” our entire thought process and how we experience the real world as we surf through the virtual one.

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A laptop becomes a hand-held device in Cambridge, Mass. Is the way we think evolving because of iPads, smartphones, and the Mobile Web?

Taylor Weidman/Staff

Gregory M. Lamb, / Staff writer /
July 24, 2010

It took an offer to appear on a national TV show for Wade Warren to reluctantly give up what he calls his “technology” for a week.

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This is article is part of the cover story package for the July 26, 2010, edition of The Christian Science Monitor weekly magazine.

Photo illustration: Staff

That was the only way, his mother says, that he would ever pack his 2006 MacBook (with some recent upgrades, he’ll tell you), his iPad tablet computer, and, most regretfully, his Nexus One smart phone into a cardboard box and watch them be hustled out the door of his room to a secret hiding place.

Wade, who’s 14 and heading into ninth grade, survived his seven days of technological withdrawal without updating his 136 Twitter followers about “wonky math tests” and “interesting fort escapades,” or posting on his photography product review blog, or texting his friends about… well, that’s private. But he has returned to his screens with a vengeance, making up for lost time.

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Today’s technology may be determining not just how we spend our time: It actually may be “rewiring” the way we think, how we experience the world around us.

Techno-Cassandras fret over what’s happening to our attention spans, our ability to think and read deeply, to enjoy time with our own thoughts or a good book.

Techno-enthusiasts scoff that those concerns are nothing new: Socrates, it’s pointed out, thought that writing itself would harm a person’s ability to internalize learning, the printed word acting as a substitute for true understanding. Technologies such as printing, and in recent decades television and the pocket calculator, have all served time as villains only to become innocuous, commonplace parts of modern life. Why should helpful new technologies from Facebook and Twitter to iPhones and laptops be any different?