Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Offline Time

It's funny that I started a new blog now, because to be honest I've been trying to spend less time online.

It seems to be a trend. People are tired of being plugged in all the time. A former blogger who's site I ADORED told me a week ago now that he's been blog-free for three months, he has also realized that he doesn't want to renew the contract on his iPhone. Another friend who's a fiction writer told me that he purchased ribbons for an old typewriter, and he hopes to forget how Facebook even works. Jay and I were both considering buying iPhones for a while, and then we realized that neither of us wants the internet following us everywhere. Then, the wireless router in our house broke, and about two days later we decided not to replace it — if we want to be online at home, we can go into the office.

Jay and I are even toying with the idea of turning off the TV now and then — okay, a lot more than now and then — we wrote down the shows that truly mean something to us and realized that it only amounts to six hours per week (including the news). Anything beyond that, the TV has to be either turned off or tuned into programming that will teach us something, like how the universe works or how to landscape or cook.

People are just too addicted to technology. You see people who are logged in to gmail chat every time you are. You probably have friends that answer your emails within five three minutes of your sending it, no matter what time it is. People text message or take phone calls in movie theaters. Or they are sitting in restaurants with a group of friends, but are looking down from the table, disconnected from everyone they are with, and busily updating Twitter or their Facebook status.

Those people are the worst. When I see one of them, I am immediately glad that I don't know them. And my first inclination is to hate them, but in reality, I feel sad for them. They don't know how to socialize with real people anymore. They have forgotten how to be alone with their thoughts. They don't realize that as a human being, this is important.

But as an artist, it is critical.


  1. I think the key is to search for a happy, moderate place to have technology in one's life.

    The absolute prohibition of technology is an extreme solution to the problem, and probably not the best, in my opinion.

    The iPhone is not the problem. The way one uses an iPhone, however, can be very problematic. I have one and I adore it, but I have very strict rules about using it. I don't text in theaters. In fact, I don't text if I am spending time with other people, whether we're having dinner, watching a movie, or whatever. There are some minor exceptions, like giving directions to someone about to join us. Generally, these rules apply to email and all uses of the iPhone. And, broadly speaking, I apply this philosophy to my laptop and other technology.

    I have friends who can hardly stand my policies, especially with text. One out-of-town friend in particular gets very hurt when he sends me a text over the weekend like, "I just saw Watchmen and it was great!" He expects a response or an acknowledgment, which I simply will not give to a non-critical text if I am, for instance, relaxing in a park with a friend--and I spend most of my weekend time with my friends. I try to remember to respond later, when I'm alone, but I often forget. However, during the day while I'm at work, I chat often with this friend. This makes him feel that I'm only interested in him when it's convenient for me. I can see his point of view, but I think if we lived in the same city, he'd be glad that I won't interrupt a dinner conversation to send a text, and he'd understand the value I place on in-person interactions. It's all a matter of perspective.

    On the flip side, I have the utility of the phone. I have only lived in NYC for five years, after a lifetime in Kansas. Being able to map out where I am walking or driving has proved to be invaluable on numerous occasions. Access to my email and calendar is critical, if for no other reason than looking up the address or phone number of my destination. I no longer have to print out Google maps in advance in order to find my way to a remote part of Brooklyn, or to figure out which highway to take home from Vermont. Taken together with its infinite list of other functions, the machine has quickly become essential to me.

    I also face this conundrum when it comes to the DVR. At my last apartment I had one and used it often. At my current place I don't have one. I often consider getting one again, but I don't really need an aid in watching more TV. I stare at the screen enough. Then again, with a DVR I could watch only those shows I want, at my convenience, so perhaps I'd watch less TV by virtue of never cruising the guide in search of whatever is on. I'm not sure which direction I will go, but I know that if I do get a DVR, I am going to set strict limits for myself on what shows I can record and how much TV I can watch.

    The tools of technology are not the problem. Observe and change your own behavior and use of the tools, so that you may enjoy the benefits of immense information at your fingertips, without negative consequences to your offline life.

  2. Riot makes fabulous sense. Great response to an already great post.

  3. I agree with Riot. Technology isn't the problem; it's people and the choices they make. I've always viewed technology as there for my convenience, not the convenience of others. When I want to be available, I'm available. If I'm in the company of great people or engaged in an activity, it's on vibrate and I get to it when I get to it.

  4. For the record, I haven't forgotten how to use Facebook yet, but I'm doing more productive writing on my typewriter.

  5. A former co-worker dropped Facebook for a similar reason. She realized how much time she was spending time on line on her desk-top, cellphone, etc and even during times when she's out to dinner with friends! She decided that she needed to cut back and enjoy her offline life more and less time on line. Agreed with Riot that the technology ain't the problem; it's just there, existing. It doesn't force anyone to use it, people need to make the choice to use it and/or how much time they're on it. Technology and software is fabulous beyond belief but, yeah, it's nice to step away from it from time to time and do something else.

    I don't have an iPhone; although it's a great toy, it ain't a necessity to have for me and my current cell and plan is fine enough. I barely make any calls on it and don't use it for 'net stuff at all. I don't watch tv on my desktop unless there's no other way to see a particular show. I've got enough tv's in the house to vege in front of.

  6. Riot is right on. Heard today on NPR that the name for those who fry their brains on Twitter is "Fritters".