“Listening in the Time of Technology” with Dr. Sayantani DasGupta

Do you connect with your family, friends, yourself and the world?

And no, not by text or email, Facebook or LinkedIn – in person, over the home phone, surrounded by nature…

This was the message that Dr. Sayantani DasGupta delivered to the 4th through 12th grades in two assemblies on Oct. 30 as part of the 2014-2015 “Road to Well-Being” Speaker Series. Below are the four challenges given to the Upper Schoolers at the end of her presentation:

1) Connect with family: Make at least 1 meal time a screen-free zone. Even the late tech mogul Steve Jobs was a “low-tech parent,” as reported by the New York Times; technology was not allowed at meals, non-school screen time was limited to a half hour, social media use was either banner or limited, and technology was banned in the bedroom. Consider this: are we creating or consuming on-screen?

2) Connect with friends for one week: See who can last the longest without looking at a device! Resist that screen.

3) Connect with yourself: Set tech-free times/zones in your day-to-day schedule. When all else fails, go outside and get your hands dirty!

4) Connect to the world: Get outside! Nature Deficit Disorder is a real thing in our urban/suburban technologically driven world, we do not get enough time to connect with the world around us. Time in nature and outdoor spaces does the following:

  • Increases longevity and happiness
  • Increases attention span, creativity, problem solving and even our immune systems (yes, I am being literal when I talk about getting our hands dirty/decrease hyperactivity
  • Decreases stress, BMI
  • Decreases health disparities (asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease)

As a faculty member in the Narrative Medicine Masters Program at Columbia University, Dr. DasGupta trains doctors, nurses and social workers to “remember again that first healing skill – that connection making, that getting our hands dirty, that listening. Because with all the fantastic life saving technological know-how, that first healing skill set has been pushed to the side.”

Connection making was a major theme for Dr. DasGupta’s talk, which also emphasized the “complicated interplay of modern means of communication and a personal connection.” Sure, technology is great tool – but it should remain as a tool: asked Dr. DasGupta, “Does technology serve us, or do we serve it?”

Dr. DasGupta – parent of Kirin ‘20 and Sunaya ‘22 – suggested the Japanese practice of  Shinrin-Yoku, or forest therapy, as a means for reconnecting with the world, as it is a “multi-sensory experience of smelling the trees, seeing the green, feeling the wind and feet on the ground and hearing the rustling leaves.”

She then ended with two quotes, urging the high schoolers to “disprove Einstein’s fears: ‘“I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.’”

And then reminding them, through the Desmond Tutu quote, that “my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”


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