I spend a great deal of time interacting with the world on the internet. I haven’t tallied up how many hours a day I’m using it (though I’m sure there’s an app for that), I would estimate about four hours on an average workday, not counting the times I use it to do my job. Which are frequent, since I am a computer technician.
I consume gobs of information, tons of data. I’ll read several hundred articles a day, varying in length from one page to twenty each. I’ve tweeted over 3,500 times and everything is synchronized to be updated simultaneously with one tap of the “submit” button.
The first and last thing I do every day is check my twitter feed. My iPhone, syncing my work calendar, tells me when to wake up and when to go to work. I don’t even have to remember how long the laundry has been in the dryer; I just set a reminder to notify me when it’s time to take it out.
This is a paradigmatic shift from the state of my life during my formal education. I attended college where I received a classical liberal arts education. This was back in 2005 (old-timers are shaking their heads even now, as I recall the “good old’ days”) and no one had even heard the word “iPhone.” Well, no one except that one company who had a product by that name and would later go on to try to sue Apple for trademark infringement. But I digress.
We read books. Copious amounts of them. Several hundred pages a day. We took notes, by hand, in notebooks so that we could quickly refer back to our thoughts when we had to defend them in front of our peers every day.
I distinctly remember the world at large being of very little concern to us at the time, because we were broadening our minds with timeless classic literature, the relevance of which would not be changed by current events. If we wanted to know what was going on with our friends, we walked over to their houses and asked them.
At some point between then and now, I grew obsessed with data mining, and information became a question of quantity and promptness rather than quality and timelessness. I’ve become fixated on what’s happening now in the world, now with my friends, and “now” changes every second. So every second I have to get updated.
This has led to a rather disjointed experience of the world. I know what’s happening, but I couldn’t tell you what day it was, or the time. I can tell you what product Microsoft announced today, or what’s in the latest software update for iPhone, but I might have some difficulty telling you why the speed of gravity used to be ten meters per second squared. I don’t think I could demonstrate Euclid’s proposition I.32 without checking the book.
And so, I’m going to experiment on myself and spend the next week completely disconnected from the internet. I’ll continue to use my computer, and my iOS devices (in airplane mode) because they’re still great tools even without their precious connections, but I won’t be using anything that requires a connection to the web. My hope is that this will lead me to find more creative ways to spend my time than absorbing all of the new content that’s created every second. Without a twitter feed to check every minute, maybe I’ll focus on a craft or read an analog book for once. I may even keep a journal.
Goodbye, internet. See you in a week.