Disconnecting from the Internet: Stop Me Before I Facebook Again

by Phil Kehres

Recently, I did something I haven’t done in years. I put in a full day of work without ever once signing onto G-mail or G-mail chat, Google Reader or Facebook. It was one of my most productive days in recent memory. The age of instant internet-based communication, automatic news feeds, status updates and micro-blogging presents a seemingly unlimited opportunity for advanced information sharing and networking. I just worry that in the race to be as connected as possible, we’re losing sight of things in life that really matter.

Online communication and networking tools like Facebook and Twitter have been a boon for keeping up with distant friends and family. RSS feed readers like Google Reader help people keep up with their favorite blogs and news stories without having to spend time on hundreds of different websites. These types of things are technical marvels capable of doing wonderful things. There is not a distinct dichotomy between real life and internet life. Many people I know use these types of applications as supplements to enhance their lives — making plans on Facebook and staying up to date with friends, learning about breaking news and cultural trends. Some people I know, however, don’t have the slightest clue what to do with themselves when they’re not glued to the internet. This is what I fear for myself and people like me.

Even as I sit here trying to write this, I find myself constantly compelled to take a break and check my favorite sports blog and my Google Reader feed. I am repeatedly interrupted by e-mails buzzing through on my BlackBerry. Sometimes, I find myself more concerned with updating my Facebook status about what I’m doing rather than taking a step back and actually living in the moment. I spend hours chatting about superficial things with multiple friends on G-Mail chat rather than 15 minutes talking to one friend on the phone about something that matters. I get stressed out about the number of unread items on my Google Reader rather than paying attention to and digesting the news that is being presented. I worry that I’m becoming a victim of the Internet Age, a thoughtless automaton drowning in a seas of useless information, losing touch with reality and growing more impatient and inattentive by the minute. I worry that it can become an addiction.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking out against the internet or any particular bit of technology. Hell, I wrote half of this commentary on my BlackBerry. It will show up in my Google Reader when it gets posted, and I will inevitably link to it on my Facebook page. All I’m saying is that it’s important to maintain perspective. The internet and its applications have the incredible power to make our lives easier and help distract us from the mundane tasks of everyday life. We should never, however, allow it to water down our experiences or serve as a surrogate for real human interaction.

(Graphic by carrotcreative of Brooklyn, New York via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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