Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Online or Off?
I spend a lot of time online. We talked about that here recently, and I confessed that I am often overwhelmed by the number of memberships I have: Facebook, Myspace, etc. I'm not very organized at the best of times. Though I always start out with the best of intentions, I invariably fall far short of my organizational goals, and the proliferation of online contacts leaves me... overwhelmed.
But I don't know what I would do now without the internet. In a relatively short time it has affected every single area of my life. Apart from medical science and its advancements, I think the most amazing inventions of the last century are the combustion engine (cars), television and the personal computer and internet.
So... what did I used to do before going to my computer first thing in the morning to check my email, etcetera, etcetera and spend the rest of the day there?
Well, I used to drink a cup of morning coffee while reading the newspaper, the newspaper to which I no longer subscribe because I get my news online. I would check the mailbox and get the mail to see if I had received any cards or letters - or rejection letters - and I no longer do that anymore because almost all my mail comes as email. I would then perhaps set out to the library to get some books out to do research for a novel, but I no longer do that anymore; virtually all my research is done online. Or, if I already had all my research done, I would sit down with a clipboard and begin to write longhand, since I went directly from longhand to computer with no stop at a typewriter along the way. Now, of course, I do all my writing at my computer with the internet humming in the background. I check my email often, and have a search engine up at all times to check word origins, historical details and the like. I can write and research more quickly and with much less trouble. Fact checking is a breeze.
And yet, and yet... I sometimes long for that feeling of isolation, that sense that I had time enough for whatever I wanted to do without a thousand online 'duties' tugging at my shirt tail demanding attention. I would go all day without contact from anyone; for a natural born introvert that's a 'peaceful easy feeling'.
Oh, don't get me wrong. The internet has given me far more than it has taken away. With one press of a button I can send my manuscript winging through cyberspace instead of laboriously printing out the whole shooting match and having to package it and take it to the postal station. With one little typed word in a search engine I can raise a thousand pages dealing with Gothic architecture, or German history, or a database of English surnames.
I'm grateful and yet... ah, the blissful serenity of that old isolation.
In the absence of any way - or even desire, because I am a realist - to go back to that time of pre-internet isolation, I take Sundays away from the computer. I don't even turn it on, don't check my email, don't do anything. I visit, read, watch movies and cook.
Maybe I'm just in a melancholy mood today; summer is over, and as much as I love autumn - I do love it more than any other season - it still represents the end of summer relaxation and potential, just as the internet, to me, symbolizes the end of isolation.
So... does anyone else feel constricted occasionally, or is the internet and all of its hyper-connectivity an unalloyed blessing? I wouldn't turn back the clock - can't imagine turning back the clock - to pre-internet, but does anyone else remember what they did before running to the computer first thing in the morning? What would your life be like without the internet?
Tell me, do! Inquiring minds want to know!