in: Behavior, Character, Podcast

• Last updated: September 28, 2021

Podcast #131: What Ancient Philosophers Can Teach You About Using Your Smartphone

The day for many Americans goes something like this: wake-up; check phone for texts, emails, and Instagram updates; eat while surfing the web on the smartphone; shower and get dressed; drive to work while listening to a podcast; spend work dividing attention between actual work, websites on the desktop computer, and apps on smartphone; go home and listen to another podcast during the commute; grab a bite to eat; watch some DVRed TV while surfing web and apps on smartphone; go to sleep. Repeat.

We have these amazing tools at our disposal that allow us to get more done, more quickly, but oftentimes it feels like we’re the tools of our tools. The result of our constant tech use is that we feel really busy while accomplishing very little. How can we gain more control of our technology so that it helps and doesn’t hinder us from living a good life?

Well, my guest today argues that we should look to thinkers like Plato, Seneca, Shakespeare, and Franklin for some answers. His name is William Powers and he’s the author of the book Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

Show Highlights

  • How the internet can sometimes discourage deep thinking
  • How our tech devices can encourage the “cult of busyness”
  • What Digital Maximalism is and how it can get in the way of our productivity
  • How the internet can both connect and disconnect us from other people
  • What Plato, Seneca, Shakespeare, Franklin, and Thoreau can teach us about living a good life in the digital age
  • How you can make your home a refuge from the tech world and how tech sabbaths can change your life
  • And much more!

 Hamlet's Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age book cover William Powers.

If you’re looking to be more thoughtful about your tech use, definitely pick up a copy of Hamlet’s BlackberryThe first time I read it was a few years ago and it really provided some great insights into how I approach technology. It was so good, that I read it again just for the reminder. For more info about Bill’s work visit his website.

Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)

Available on itunes.

Available on stitcher.

Soundcloud logo.


Google play podcast.

Spotify Logo.

Listen to the episode on a separate page.

Download this episode.

Subscribe to the podcast in the media player of your choice.

Special thanks to Keelan O’Hara for editing the podcast!


Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. We have a lot of distractions in our lives today with all the technology that we have. You sit down to your laptop at night and you think, “Okay, I’m just going to read this one article,” and then an hour later, you’re like, “What? I’ve just wasted my life looking at nothing. This is … I can’t believe I did this.”

Then when you get away from your laptop, and there’s this cell phone, the smartphone with all the pings of emails and text messages and Instagram and Twitter, and then we’ve even got Periscope now. I don’t even know what that is. I haven’t seen a lot, but apparently it’s a thing now.

It reaches a point where you feel you don’t have any control over your life and it’s overwhelming. We’re like, “What can I do about this?” Well, I guess that makes the argument we should look to the past, particularly great thinkers of the past, to find insights on how we can live a good life in the age of technology.

My guest is William Powers. He’s the author of the book, “Hamlet’s Blackberry,” and in it he makes the case that individuals like Shakespeare, Thoreau, they have insights and wisdom that could help us manage technology in a way that it can be a part of our life, but not control our life. If you’ve been feeling a little frazzled by all the technology in your life, this episode is for you, so without further ado, Williams Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry.

William Powers, welcome to the show.

William Powers: Thank you very much, Brett. Great to be here.

Brett McKay: All right, so your book is called Hamlet’s Blackberry, and we’ll get to the meaning of that title here in a bit, but it’s basically about you’re trying to create a philosophy for the good life in the digital age. What inspired you to start this project? Was there a moment that sparked you, like, “I need to figure this out. Technology has just overrun my life and it’s making me miserable.” Was there a moment like that?

William Powers: There were basically two moments, Brett. The first moment was I was invited to take a break from my work as a journalist and to go to Harvard to be a scholar in residence at Harvard at a nice academic center there. They asked me what I wanted to do a project about. I just had to do a study and write an essay about what I learned. I immediately blurted out without even thinking about it, I said, “I would like to do something about the death of paper that I keep reading about. People keep saying that books on paper and everything hard copy is dying.”

Something inside me objected to that idea, because I was finding that hard copy stuff, hard copy reading, had become a kind of oasis for me away from my devices. I spent a semester at Harvard looking into the question of whether print on paper is dying.

I concluded that obviously it’s declining, but I predicted that digital reading will only really take off in a big way and conquer print when it does for us what reading on paper has always done, which is center us and allow us to focus and be undistracted in our thinking, and it hasn’t done that yet, as you know. Digital devices are very good at distracting and dividing our attention. I wrote that essay, it had a lot of technology history in it, including a story from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, so I called the essay, Hamlet’s Blackberry.

Then I started to think about whether it could be a book, and the second thing that happened was that my family and I had moved to a small town on Cape Cod from busy Washington, D.C. My wife and I thought that having moved from a busy place, we were going to find we had this nice, calm, centered life. That was one of our goals, where we could focus on our family time and so forth together. It didn’t really happen, because of course, we took with us from D.C. the very thing that was making us busier than ever, which was our digital devices.

I remember looking around me one day at my house, and we all had our backs to each other staring into our screens, even though it was Friday night and nobody was working, and we weren’t even really together. That was when I decided I really have to write a book about this and try and solve this problem of technology bringing us so much benefits, but also taking so much away, and maybe devise a philosophy that would help us get out of that conundrum.

Brett McKay: Yeah, it’s brought us a lot of benefits, but some of the down sides you’ve highlighted in your book. One of them is that it’s brought us infinite knowledge to our fingertips. You can find out anything about anything. Just go to Wikipedia, but we’ve lost the ability to not only think deeply, but you say to feel deeply. Can you provide some examples of this loss of ability to think and feel deeply?

William Powers: Yeah. On the thinking front, that goes back to this question of are you really reflecting on whatever it is you’re doing and really giving it all of your attention. I think the best creativity comes from really carving out a space where you can focus on that one task that’s important to you, whether it’s your work or the book that’s in front of you or whatever. If your mind is constantly wandering, you’re not going to any depth. It’s like being a water bug on the surface of a pond. That’s the thinking side.

The feeling side is really about relationships. I think being with people physically is not enough in terms of real togetherness and depth, emotional connection. I found that we see this happening all around us every day. We’re not doing that as much as used to because these amazing little gizmos have gotten in the way of it.

Brett McKay: They raise the question, why is that? We get so much benefit from thinking deeply and feeling deeply and connecting with people on a very intimate level. How is it that something so frivolous can take us away from that?

William Powers: Well, I would disagree with you. I don’t think it is frivolous. I think that the power that these devices have to enrich our lives and to put us in touch with other people and ideas and images and moving videos and all this stuff that comes at us is amazing. The potential of it is fantastic, but our attention is limited. That’s the problem.

We’ve oversaturated the attention part of our lives to the point where it’s just divided up into a million little pieces every day, and that’s not taking us to that place that we’re talking about, which is the ideal place to be of real presence, real focus. You can’t get there if you’re just dividing every second up into a bunch of different pieces. I wrote this book, it’s all about getting out of that problem, but I still find myself doing it years later, because it’s just hard to escape.

Brett McKay: It’s interesting, it’s not only the technology that distracts us and splits us up into a billion different pieces, but the technology also creates a sense of urgency within us. You talk about how in our culture today, busyness is a badge of honor, when people ask you, “How are you doing?” “Oh, busy. Really busy. Busy, busy.” I do that all the time, but being busy doesn’t really mean you’re being effective. You’re not actually doing something. Why are we so drawn to being busy even though it makes us feel miserable? Everyone talks about, “Oh, I’m so busy. I can’t wait to go on vacation.” What’s the draw there?

William Powers: There’s a lot of theories about this, but the prevailing one that I find most convincing is that it has to do with our amazing brains, this capacity we have for higher level thinking and a curiosity that the biologist, E. O. Wilson calls the excess capacity of human beings. We have, obviously, this X factor in our brains that no other creature has, and our minds are constantly searching for things to latch onto, to think about, to explore, to do.

That’s, in many way, the best part of us, that’s why we have this incredible civilization and these beautiful cities, and all these things that we have came from our, in a sense, from our busyness, but it’s always in tension with this other, I think, emotional and intellectual need we have for quiet time and space, and the little distance from the busy world, because I think that’s where we do a lot of our best thinking and feeling, as we discussed.

All through history, technology has pushed against that need for distance, because think about what communications technologies have done gradually over the last couple thousand years. They’ve pulled us literally closer together, not literally in the sense of physically, but they’ve linked us much more tightly together, and that’s a challenge. Distance is harder to come by and it really is, I think, an important part of the equation of being a full human being.

Brett McKay: Having that distance, okay. To manage our busyness, we’ve come up with these productivity tools. We’ve got the calendaring tools, you’ve got digital assistants. Look at your email inbox, it’s kind of creepy. I have Google now on my phone and it will tell me, it knows when I’m about to leave on a flight and it will say, “You need to leave for the airport right now if you want to get your flight on time,” without me even having to do anything. It’s kind of weird, but you make the case that these productivity tools that are supposed to save us from our business actually can undermine our productivity. How is that?

William Powers: Well, they can; it depends on the tool. I think the early tools and the way we used the early digital tools like the beginnings of email, the beginnings of websites, they were all configured to maximize the incoming and no concern for our need to take things a little bit at a time and to be patient or any of that. It was like the more the better. In the book, I call it digital maximalism. You just can’t get too much.

That was a mistake, and I think at the time I wrote the book, that hadn’t fully dawned on civilization, but it has since and people have been working on that. Now, we have productivity tools that I think really do help us. I’ll give you a examples. You know how you wonder whether you should make that decision about some app you’re using, whether you should get the higher level version, pay for it, basically a monthly fee.

I’ve got a couple that I gladly signed up for because they help me so much in terms of actually being less busy, and there are two that are very popular, but I love Dropbox and I love Evernote. They have removed all this filing anxiety and everything is crisply organized, and I don’t have to wade through too much stuff to get to where I need to get to in my files. I’m a writer, and I’m now working in the technology world as well, so I have a lot of information I need to save for all my projects, and those help me hugely.

I’ve noticed that websites have gone the route. You guys have actually done this with your own website, have gone the route of being a cleaner and crisper and less information coming at you. If you compare, the blogging website, to what blogging websites looked like eight years ago, it’s a completely different animal. We’re trying to unclutter, unbusy our lives, and I think that’s a great sign.

Brett McKay: Let’s talk about one more problem before we start getting into the solutions here. One I thought that was really interesting is a paradox here. On the one hand, technology separates us. For example your example with your family where everyone had their face in a separate screen, had their backs to each other, but at the same time, it also makes us more attuned to other people’s opinions.

For example, the sociologist David Riesman wrote the book, “The Lonely Crowd” … we’ve talk about it on our site … over 50 years ago, and he basically said that we’re becoming an other-directed society. At one time people looked into an internal compass to navigate, but now they look to the opinions of others to navigate.

You see that, I guess, with social media and that’s how social media works. You put your opinion out there and you want to get the likes to see if you have the correct opinion. What are the downsides of that though? What do we lose by putting ourselves so much in the technology, that we’re so focused on what other people have to say about our opinions?

William Powers: I love that book, and I often have fantasized about what if David Riesman could be alive today and see where we’ve come, because he thought the 1950s was that way, everybody being so other-directed, and of course that’s our whole culture now. It’s sad because technology, social networks, the way they’re set up, they’re configured to play to our insecurities. None of us really feels like we’ve totally got our act together and we’ve gotten to the place we need to get to in life. We have all these doubts every day that are gnawing at us.

We go on digital and they just multiply, because we see these people with these perfect looking lives, and we see people getting all these likes and having all these followers we don’t have, and it’s torture. Yet there’s something about it, it’s like the busyness; we can’t help ourselves and I think that’s tragic. Eastern philosophy’s especially good at this, but unfortunately, we’ve been moving for over a decade now in the opposite direction, and that’s really one of the things I try to take on in the book.

Brett McKay: To just sum up some of the issues that technology has brought to our lives, I guess there’s a sense of disconnect from others, but at the same time we become very anxious about the opinions of others and what people think about us. Then there’s the lack of depth in thinking and getting really into a topic and just skittering on the service. I guess another one you could say is just splitting our attention into different areas where we feel rushed and really busy, when maybe in fact we’re not as busy as we think we are, but the technology makes us feel that way.

William Powers: Also, I guess related to all those things is just that missing reflection time, where I think we can go to this creative place that’s a little bit different from depth but related, where we can have actually fresh thoughts and make new connections that nobody else has made because we’re away from all those voices. That’s what Facebook and Twitter are basically is all these people telling us about their ideas they just had. How can you have your own if you’re spending all day immersed in those voices of others? That reflective time space apart is crucial.

Brett McKay: Let’s talk about, to develop your philosophy of the good life, you went to the past and looked at some famous philosophers and writers who have thought about the good life. Who are these seven historical philosophers that you used as your rhesis?

William Powers: I’ll just talk about each one briefly, and stop me if I’m taking too long. I started with ancient Greece and with Plato, and one of his dialogues of Socrates that he so beautifully recorded. This is a story that takes place at a time when the great technology revolution was the advent of writing of the written word. The alphabet was actually turning the world of ancient Greece upside down. Until that moment, people had only communicated orally, and suddenly letters existed and people were learning to read and write.

The philosopher taught Socrates is walking through Athens and he runs into of his students who proposes they go for a stroll outside the walls of the city where they can have a little peace and quiet and a good conversation. Socrates actually objects and says, “Well, no, I hate to leave the city. This is where all the action is.” This young student says, “Well, no, if we really,” effectively, I’m not quoting him directly, but he says, “No, let’s take a walk and you’ll see. If we get out into nature, you’ll see our conversation might go to an even better place.”

They take this walk; they actually have one of the greatest conversations in the history of philosophy talking about all kinds of things, love and sex and what does it mean to write with words versus speaking orally, exactly that challenge they were facing at the time. Two things happened. Socrates winds up being convinced that it really is a great idea to get a little distance from your own busy life, which in his case was that world of conversation in Athens.

Second, he remains firm in his opposition to writing. He says, “Don’t embrace that new technology. It’s going to ruin your mind,” he tells his student, “so stay away from the alphabet.” I found that story useful because it is a reminder that although technology can be causing us all kinds of challenges, like the ones you and I are talking about now. We can’t really see the trajectory of it over the horizon completely, where it’s going to take us, and in Socrates’ case, he was one of the smartest men who ever lived and he couldn’t see that writing would actually become a wonderful tool for growing your mind and having creative thoughts if you use it well.

He was this incredibly busy person in ancient Rome, which itself was a very busy place, the capital of this huge empire. In addition to being a philosopher and playwright, at one point he was basically running the empire for the boy emperor, Nero, when he was still a boy. Seneca discovered that in order to really be effective at everything he did, his writing, his thinking, his politics, he had to actually carve out this space apart from all his activities, similar to Plato but in a different way.

He did it purely as a mental exercise. He didn’t take a walk out in the country to do this, he actually didn’t have time to do this. He would sit in a room and focus on he would write one letter to one friend and focus only on that, and don’t let any other task get in the way. Think about that person, have them in his mind, and really use letter writing as an exercise of focus.

He found it was an incredibly useful way to get away from the urges you and I just talked about, about what are people saying about me? What can I check now to keep busy? What’s that thing happening now that I have to be a part of? He was able to basically quiet his mind with this simple inner exercise, which I find very inspiring.

The next philosopher is Gutenberg, who famously invented the printing press in the middle of the 15th century. The Gutenberg chapter, I go to Gutenberg, not because he was technically a philosopher, because he wasn’t; he was a technologist. He liked to build stuff like technologists today.

What he saw, one of his insights was that in his lifetime, up until the invention of his printing press, people had been reading books, actually listening to books be read in huge crowds, because most people couldn’t afford books. They were made by hand, they were very expensive, so they would go to churches and other places to experience books read aloud. Reading was this somewhat busy, immersed-in-the-crowd atmosphere.

He created the ability, through the printing press, to have millions of copies of the same book that didn’t cost that much to buy, so that eventually, people could have a private book that they could even years later carry on in their pocket and having that personal, inward experience of depth that we get from reading a book silently and quietly.

That, I think, was a really, really world-changing and underappreciated aspect of his invention. Here we can do this now every day, sit down with a book. I read every morning at dawn; I get up early and read a book, and I have Gutenberg to thank for that. That’s a kind of distance that serves me all through the day.

The third story is the one of the title, Hamlet’s Blackberry. My philosopher in that case is Shakespeare, who everybody’s familiar with as a great playwright. There’s a moment in the play, Hamlet, where Hamlet meets the ghost of his father, famous moment in the play. His father imparts this terrible news that he wasn’t killed by the bite of a serpent, he was actually murdered by his brother, who’s now the king, Hamlet’s uncle. This is news is obviously incredibly disturbing to Hamlet, and he doesn’t quite know what to do, and he actually talks about his mind being just crowded with all these thoughts, and he’s just in a tizzy, basically.

He suddenly says, “My tables, my tables.” He takes out of his pocket this little tablet that was actually the great personal technology innovation of Shakespeare’s time, in the real world, so not Hamlet’s world, but Shakespeare’s world. As I said, it was a tablet. It just had one surface, and it was made from a plaster-like material, and it had a stylus, a little metal stylus. You took the stylus and you could take notes on the plaster-like surface all day long, to-do lists, people’s addresses you wanted to remember, blah, blah, blah. But the beauty of it was that at the end of the day, with a swipe of your finger, you could wipe it clean for the next day, so that you were starting with a blank slate the next day.

Now why does this matter? This matters because Shakespeare was living through the print revolution that Gutenberg had begun, a century and a half later, but it was really taking off now with newspapers and books being published in incredible quantities, so that people had this feeling of inability to stay up with information. It was impossible to keep up anymore, they felt overwhelmed by information. It was really one of the early cases of information overload.

The tables moved in the opposite direction. You could put information on your little device in your pocket, and at the end of the day, make it go away. The ideal of zero inbox that some of us have today, Shakespeare was aware of the use of that and actually of the usefulness of that, and actually put it in the play, Hamlet.

My next philosopher is Ben Franklin, who I love. He never had negative goals like “Drink less wine.” Instead, he would say something like, “Enjoy more sober hours during the day,” so that it always had a positive spin in there for it was appealing to him. When I read Franklin for the book, I was so inspired, I actually a ritual like that myself, where I set up my own positive goals, including technology goals, and would check up every day how I had done. I should mention parenthetically that when I told my son, who’s 17, that I was doing this chat with you today, Brett, he mentioned that you guys have some kind of version of Franklin’s grid that you offer on your website. Yeah.

Brett McKay: Yeah.

William Powers: He has been using that.

Brett McKay: Oh, that’s fantastic. Great.

William Powers: So you have a fan in a 17-year-old here in Massachusetts. That method, it’s not that he invented the idea of having a list of goals, but he took it to a very high level, and I think it’s great that people like me and your readers are still inspired by that today.

The next philosopher is Henry David Thoreau, who’s famous for running away from civilization for two years and building his little cabin at Walden Pond, here in Massachusetts. Supposedly, Thoreau was actually a technology hater, but in fact, that’s not really true. First of all, he was a writer, so he was a fan of print technology. Second, his family owned a pencil making company, which was a very powerful technology at that time, and he himself designed some really great pencils as a member of the company.

I talk about Thoreau because I think his experiment at Walden is incredibly useful to us in thinking about how we can actually configure our homes today that are so connected and so potentially busy all the time because of our devices, where we could, if we think properly about our homes, actually create spaces that I call Walden zones, where we’ve put a little distance between ourselves and all that busyness, just the way Thoreau did by moving out into the woods for a few years and getting some quiet time.

I talk in the chapter about some specific ideas, for example, creating a particular room in your house or apartment, or even a part of a room that no device is allowed, so that we can achieve some of that distance from our digital lives that I think is so crucial.

McLuhan is famous for coming up with a couple of phrases, including the global village and the medium is the message. Less well known about McLuhan is that he had this very proactive idea about technology that we should all learn to view our technological lives as a thermostat that we can regulate, and that devices can actually go really, really hot or really, really cool, hot meaning they fill our ideas with all this information, which can be good in some cases but often bad, cool meaning you have more of a spacious feeling of dealing with the device or the technology, and it gives you a little bit of a sense of being able to participate in a calmer, more focused way. As you can imagine, I favor the latter.

I use a couple stories McLuhan told to talk about how we should all in some sense view ourselves as being in the driver’s seat of our digital lives, and be able to regulate the heat or the coolness ourselves by just being more thoughtful about how we use our devices. That’s my seven philosophers, and if you want to dig into any of them or follow up on any of them, just let me know.

Brett McKay: What I think is interesting about all of them is that you’re not saying get rid of technology. You’re not a Luddite. I guess the underlying theme is be more thoughtful and intentional about your technology?

William Powers: Absolutely. In fact, one of the things that’s happened to me since the book came out is I am now working in the technology world, I’m at the MIT media lab, actually working on new technology ideas in the area of social media ,and that happened through the book because some of the folks in that world liked reading it and wanted to work with me.

It underlines the point you just raised, which is that I’m actually a big technology fan and even an early adopter of technologies. I don’t want to throw them out the window. I think this revolution is ultimately going to take us to a fantastic place, but we are not even close to there yet. This is one of the areas we really need to work on.

Brett McKay: I remember when I was in college I took a philosophy of science class, and one of the main points the professor made in that class was that one of the problems with modern science is that we no longer have time to develop a philosophy towards the technology that we have. Before we had the wheel and we had a long time to figure out how the wheel plays in our life; we had writing, we had a long time to figure out.

Now, the way that technology advances and we’re getting all this new social media stuff, I guess there isn’t a time to really pause and think about, how is this going to fit into our life, and how is it going to change things? I guess the idea is just to be more thoughtful and think about how this technology will affect us, and what role it’s going to play in our life.

William Powers: At the risk of seeming to tout up my own workplace, which I guess I’m about to do, we get technology ideas and work on them in isolation from the commercial marketplace, which makes it so hard to be thoughtful because of the pressure to be profitable and to deliver for shareholders and so forth. We have a bit of a sandbox where we can play around with stuff, see if it works, test it with our colleagues and with the public, and then maybe at some point down the road if it feels like it could be a really great potential for the public, then turn it into a company. That’s exactly what we need more of I think is that kind of thinking, a philosophical approach to technology like your course offered.

Brett McKay: I think it’s interesting, something I just learned about the Amish. There’s this idea of the Amish are very anti-technology, they don’t use anything, which is true. They don’t use cars or cell phones or things like that, but they’re not anti-technology per se, they’re just very picky about the technology they use.

I guess the idea is that before they’ll introduce a new piece of technology, they’ll get together and talk about, will this change our way of life to a negative way. If it does, then we’ll shun that, but if it will benefit us, we’ll bring it in. I’ve been trying to take more of an Amish approach to technology. Not that I’m going to get rid of my computers or laptops or Instagram, but thinking more deeply about, is this making my life better or is it making me not happy?

William Powers: That’s exactly what I do, Brett. I have the same approach, I try to be really thoughtful about every possible app, platform, device I use, and I don’t literally think of it as the Amish approach, I love that thought. In fact, I have actually heard from some Amish people since the book came out that it was kind of in sync with their point of view.

Brett McKay: That’s excellent.

William Powers: I think they’ve got it. I think we all, especially today, we all need a dose of that. So many of us are excited about technology, but at the same time drowning in it. Sometimes I think it’s making us less human rather than more, and that’s a problem.

Brett McKay: You mentioned one thing you can do is in your home, create Waldens in your home where there’s no devices allowed. Another tip that you talk about in your book, and you still implement to this day and we’ve written about on this site, is this idea of tech Sabbaths. Can you explain what a tech sabbath is for those who are not familiar with, and how they can implement it into their own life?

William Powers: I love these tech Sabbaths. We invented ours in, I guess it was 2006, so quite a long time ago, when my son was eight years old. We called it Internet Sabbath, because what it was all about was specifically the Internet. It wasn’t about technology per se, we didn’t unplug our TV, we didn’t actually stop using our phones for voice and texting and so forth, but we did spend every weekend for five years completely off the Internet. The modem was actually unplugged Friday night in our house and not plugged in again until Monday morning.

That was an unbelievable learning experience for all of us. It was amazing, this other place that we went to every weekend together. It was very challenging in the beginning, very hard to wean ourselves off, but once we got into the habit of doing it and began to see the potential of that disconnected time, it was amazing.

We all have our own smaller version of that now because we’ve kind of gone off into the world and done various things that require a little bit more than five days online. I do Saturdays offline, my wife tries to do Sundays offline, and my son who’s away at school now does no video games at school, no video gaming at all. We all do our kind of Sabbath equivalents.

I find that it allows the mind to … It’s like how when you use a muscle a lot, that muscle’s always available to do tasks when you want to do it because you’ve been working on that muscle. It allows the mind to always be able to switch into disconnected mode when you need it, even when you’re not doing the Sabbath.

I find that if I keep my regular Sabbath on Saturdays, if I’m having a really crazy digital day on a Wednesday, I can still step back and breathe and go to that place because I was there fairly recently. People who never go to that place, who never disconnect, I think they have a much harder time.

Brett McKay: Well, Bill, where can people learn more about your work?

William Powers: My website is easy enough to remember, and there’s more about the book there. It’s still for sale in the book stores and on all the digital book stores, digital websites. I’m on Twitter at @HamletsBB and folks can email me through my website or reach out to me on Twitter. If they want to comment on the book or have any questions or whatever, I’d love to hear from them.

Brett McKay: Awesome. Well, William Powers, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

William Powers: Thank you, Brett. I really enjoyed it.

Brett McKay: Our guest today was William Powers, he’s the author of the book Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. You can find that on

Well, that wraps up another addition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at, and until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.

Related Posts