Monday, July 29, 2013

This machine...

     I can't remember a day when I didn't check the computer. There must have been one. Many such days, five or 10 years ago. But not recently. Not one I specifically remember. Not one where I woke up and told myself, "No, I think I'll pass on Facebook today." Never happens. Not at home. I have a big honking iMac in my home office, another one in the living room -- the living room! -- on its own little corner desk, a special piece of triangular computer furniture that I finished myself, hand-buffing it with super fine steel wool, as if preparing a shrine. I'm surprised I don't have a few sticks of incense burning next to it,  flower garlands draped about and maybe a small plate of fruit, as an offering to the godhead.
     And of course I check it at work. It's the first thing I do when I arrive at my office downtown—flop my fingers onto the keyboard as soon as my butt hits the chair, see what has changed in the hour I've been commuting. Some days I rarely seem to lift my fingers off the keys. And don't forget the smart phone — is that term still current? — the plain-old phone then, a mini-computer itself, and I can surf and text and post to my heart's content, which means continually. And the laptop....
     I could, of course, just take a day off and not do it. Set the phone aside. Power down the iMacs. Interact with people the old-fashioned way, face-to-face. I could do that. Easily. But I've never even considered trying, never mind done it. Why? I guess the honest answer is, I want to be online. It fills the place where something else used to be. "It's like having friends," to quote Luna Lovegood's chirpy, infinitely sad phrase.
     Though I still haven't decided: does the Internet really make you feel less alone? Or more? Does it fulfill you or only distract you? 
     That's a toughie.
     Maybe it really is an addiction. Shit. Another addiction. Just what I need. I try to resist thinking that way. Not everything you like is necessarily an addiction. Just the things you do all the time and want to stop, but don't stop, because the truth, which you try to ignore, is that you can't stop. Though I can. At least I think I can, I wouldn't know, I haven't tried.
     Hmmmm....that does ring familiar, doesn't it?
     No question, I can stop. Surely. At least for a day. Certainly I can. Now that I've had the idea, I am going to do it. Once. See what it's like. Some Saturday. Some day soon. Just wake up, walk straight into the garden and start weeding. Read a book, the kind with covers and pages. Get in the car, wander somewhere. Off to the Chicago Botanic Garden, to stroll around nature, which was here long before all these machines, and will be here long after. We are only on this earth for a short while. And we are spending our time playing Angry Birds -- well, I'm not. No, I'm too sophisticated for that. I'm spending my time playing Facebook Scrabble. One thousand three hundred and eighty-eight games, so far. And counting. Surely I can miss a day.  One day. One.



  1. It's interesting many of us--myself included--who use social media and other web platforms to connect with people, have a guilty feeling about being overly dependent on our computer devices. I just read in Mitch Joel's book Control Alt Delete, there is a Montessori school in Silicon Valley that caters to the children of the people who work at tech companies that promises no Internet devices will be used as part of the school curriculum--if they're concerned, should we all be? Meanwhile, local schools, like Glenview, for example, are rolling out iPads for all elementary students.

    Is this a reaction against online connectivity a result of living in times of transition? We can remember when we didn't have these devices, so we're unsure of whether change is good or bad. Don't similar reactions occur at other points of enormous technological advances.

    1. I agree with Frances. Once the technology is available and becomes an integral part of our lives, there's really no turning back. The Internet is arguably the most important communication/information invention ever. Social web sites such as Facebook are where I get most of my information on what's happening in the world, and it's available at the blink of an eye. The added bonus is having "friends" to interact with when discussing these events,and of course keeping in touch with personal friends both near and far. I would have a hard time giving it up. Maybe for a day, or two, but as long as it doesn't take over one's life, all is good. And of course there's the cute cat photos....

    2. I am a Montessori teacher and we never use computers in our 3-6 classroom, although the elementary grades use the computer for research purposes. I cringe when parents tell me that they bought their 3 year old an ipad. Ugh. Children need movement...not ipads! Anyway, it is ironic that a lot of the founders of the internet technologies were Montessori kids. The founders of Google, Amazon, Sim City, Wikipedia. Sergi Brin and Larry Page credit their Montessori education for their development of Google.

  2. I deactivated my Facebook account on Memorial Day with the goal of taking summer off. I actually created a Facebook event around this and invited others to join me - no takers. What's happening? Most of the time, I really don't know and better still, it's okay. I think the addiction was more about knowing what's going on all the time than what was actually happening - does that make sense? I miss it, but not enough to reactive before Labor Day. Every summer party we've been to, someone asks "Where are you, I miss your Facebook posts, what's going on?" and it is nice being missed a little. I am reading a lot more than usual this summer. Also, I work from home, so FB was helpful in keeping me - an introvert - connected/social. I miss that. Last Wednesday, I did not open my laptop or check email on my phone for the first time in forever - it was wonderful.

  3. I'm old enough to remember the days when people would *wonder* about things. There'd be conversations about who Elizabeth Taylor's husbands were, or whether animals use camouflage to avoid being hunted or to enhance their hunting ability, or what the lyrics were on the White Album. At the end of these, people would have discussed it, with no definitive answers, but a lot of conversation.

    Now, we reach into our pockets and pull out a phone and know the answer nearly immediately.

    Is it better? In many ways, yes. I'm still enthralled by the fact that so much knowledge is easily available to us. But at the same time a bit sad that so much is at our fingertips and we spend more time gossiping about the Kardashian marriages.

    Like Hedy, I work from home, and Facebook is the new water cooler. I miss face-to-face conversations with co-workers, but Facebook is a pretty satisfying substitute.

  4. I dont throw out books or maps etc., so I can still look stuff up. But if you throw out everything, there is no way you can't not look stuff up on the computer, if you need it, like a phone number or something. I actually can turn it off for a day, or more. When I go back, I feel like I missed a lot, but I dont lose sleep over it. I get a lot more done w/ the computer off. I would prefer phone calls and real life interaction around coffee or the watercooler than FB. After awhile I feel empty like there are no real relationships that mean anything if they are just on FB

  5. What do the guys in taverns argue about, er, discuss now? All of the reindeers names, the first year their favorite car was made, who has the fastest pitch, the most assists, the lake with the most fish, can a car put a million miles on the odometer, who is tge best heavyweight boxer ever, are all quickly answered by a fast tap on the IPhone. Taverns are probably dreary places these days.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.