A year ago, I lived in Chicago among the crowd of young professionals and recent graduates who populate the north side of the city. None of my friends were laid off in the early part of 2008. People didn’t start and end their day with a “tweet.” The iPhone was still an indulgent mobile luxury. The lifestyle of young adulthood in the Midwest felt leisurely and carefree.
 
This leisure quickly became too static for me. San Francisco, brimming with artists, entrepreneurs, writers, and activists, gleamed in contrast. 
 
I decided to move to San Francisco partially because I was born and raised in Cupertino and familiar with the Silicon Valley. What I didn't anticipate upon moving was how quickly a book-loving, non-techie like myself could assimilate into the overwired, tech-obsessed culture of San Francisco.
 

 First it was my compulsion to check email. Everyone around me was incessantly connected to the Internet. The Internet is like oxygen here. Without it, you're irrelevant.

I bought a Blackberry to ensure that a constant flow of emails would be delivered right to my fingertips, like a mobile IV. I morphed into a "crackberry addict," furiously typing superfluous, lengthy emails on my mobile device at inconvenient times, like family dinners, simply because I could, not because my emails were urgent.

I started habitually walking into oncoming traffic because I forgot to look up. Walking down the street, tweeting and texting with one hand, scrolling through an iPod with the other hand, I became oblivious to pedestrians, street signs, cars, and nature, too engrossed with the wired world to avert my eyes from a screen.

Essayist Richard Rodriguez bleakly discussed overplugged young people at NAM’s Northern California Ethnic Media Awards Workshop Luncheon Address a few months ago.

He said, "young people walk down the street listening to music in one ear and taking a phone call in another; they aren't touching or feeling. They're scared to touch paper. You can stand two feet away from a young person, and talk about them, and they won't even know or hear what you're saying.

“They're not here," Rodriguez argued.

The scary part about Rodriguez’s assertion is its truth. As he spoke, I sunk lower in my seat, mortified. I epitomize Rodriguez's take on young people today. I was the only person in the room with a laptop nestled on my lap. Furiously typing, like a robot, I didn't even realize how obnoxious my keyboard clacking might sound in the hushed, crowded room.

I could have jotted handwritten notes, but paper scares me. I started typing all my assignments in the 4th grade, and having traded in my penmanship at a young age, handwriting now feels like strenuous physical exertion.

I didn't even consider simply sitting and listening like all my colleagues did. Why sit, listen, process, and orally recall remarks when you can simultaneously type, tweet, and e-mail them?

Nicholas Carr observed in The Atlantic in a July 2007 cover story titled "Is Google Making Us Stupid", “what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

Like Carr, I've attuned to intaking and outputting information through so many channels at once that I get antsy when required to focus on just one activity, like listening to a keynote address. "Listening" without simultaneously "doing" feels unnerving—almost inefficient, even, as if it's lazy just to listen in our information-crazed age.

My attention span has deteriorated drastically, and this is also a recent development. Up till last year, I spent the bulk of my time listening to instructors lecture and students share their ideas, devoid of the beeping, buzzing, and blinking machines that cloud my post-collegiate life.

Even my vernacular has changed, with Net-centric jargon, such as “inputting” and “outputting,” sneaking into my everyday diction.

My increased tech consumption is rooted in my transition to the wired working world of the 24-hour news cycle, where I spend all day in front of a computer screen, letting spellcheck correct my typos and email facilitate my professional communication. But looking back, it was really the tech-crazed culture of San Francisco that expedited my foray into tech-obsession. I wanted to fit in, and the most viable way to gain credibility was to prove I knew a thing or two about technology and social media.

Young San Franciscans, with relentless fervor, channel their time, brains, and innovation into developing social and mobile technologies, hoping to beef up bank accounts and self-constructed online identities in the process. San Francisco is mecca for limitless online proliferation, particularly in new mobile applications, social networks, web-based services, and user-generated online information hubs.

The problem is everything happens so fast. Conversations happen around the clock, in real time, on social media sites and tech blogs and whatnot, and as a result, young people feel obliged to overexert their online selves just to keep up. We're so vigilant about trying to stay relevant online (because let's face it, that's how people measure your worth these days—publicly) that perhaps we've forgotten how to slow down and reflect on our work, our commitments, how we're utilizing the Internet, and whether it’s benefiting us.

For example, do we really need applications like raise a virtual baby? Do we prioritize the online world over the real world, directing our attention to our web-enabled phones over colleagues during meetings? If we focus our innovation predominantly in social media and web technology, how will my generation deal with looming offline issues like the water crisis, the energy crisis, social security, the recession, and more?

I've unplugged a bit in recent months because I'd rather be known by my real name, not a Twitter username. And because it's calming to redirect my time and ideas into offline endeavors.

But my lifestyle change is an aberration; it's clear the tech community of San Francisco isn't slowing down any time soon. My hope is only that we won't evolve into the generation known for an epidemic carpal tunnel syndrome, physical or spiritual, all thanks to our excessive tweeting, texting, and typing.