Two quick observations after avoiding the Internet for a week:
- Wow, I waste a lot of time on the Internet.
- Man, I love the Internet.
My students were born in 1998. They are shocked to hear about the world I grew up in, the world before the Internet, ATMs, and cell phones. (If they do picture it, it is a hazy world with horses and buggies traveling down the dusty road and overly fancy children churning butter.)
I tell them that if an argument broke out around the kitchen table about a misremembered fact, we would call the public library to ask the librarian to look it up for us. As a teenager, if I couldn’t make it to the bank by 4 p.m. on a Friday to cash my check, I was out of luck with no money for the entire weekend. When my car broke down on the side of the highway, I walked down the exit to find a public pay phone at a gas station.
So while I didn’t break out the butter churn this past week, I did feel strange avoiding the Internet in the limited way that I did. I only gave up “recreational” Internet use, so I still used it for work, and I checked my personal email sporadically to arrange a freelance writing job. I did have a few moments of “needing” to jump on the Internet that I had to resist.
- The song “Pictures of Matchstick Men” has been stuck in my head all week, and I just can’t decide if it’s “When I look up to the skies, I see your eyes a funny” kind? shade? “of yellow.”
- After learning about India’s caste system in social studies class, a student told me that a Korn album is called “Untouchables,” and I couldn’t check out the cover.
- I came across the word “valetudinarian” while reading, and I had to hunt down a dictionary to discover that Mr. Woodhouse is “a person who is excessively concerned about his or her poor health or ailments.”
- I arrived at my destination before an NPR story about a new book that sounded interesting, and I couldn’t follow up at home later that night.
My biggest revelation, though, was how much I loved this challenge. I waste a lot of time doing nothing on the Internet!
I don’t want to go back to that, but I have such an all or nothing kind of personality. I hope to find the middle way.
Aside from convenience, the biggest culprit is habit. If I pour myself a cup of coffee, I want to sit down and jump online. Breakfast at the kitchen table with a book felt very odd. As the week wore on, though, that compulsive feeling of needing to check things did lessen. Now that the habit is broken, will I jump on less?
In the young adult novel Feed by M.T. Anderson, the Internet is jacked directly into people’s brains when they are babies, and they surf nonstop in a dystopian future.
Dystopian? Part of me thought it sounded pretty cool.