Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rebel Walking

I did something quite radical for a 21st century person today: I took a long walk and didn't bring my smart phone with me. My dirty little secret is that enjoyed the time immensely. The iPhone, with its Facebook, internet, and other apps, makes it very easy to stay in touch with the world, and for the rest of the world to be in touch with you. There's a problem with that scenario if you're an introvert: there are times when you just want the world to leave you the heck alone.

It is all too easy, even if the phone is off, to pull it out of your pocket and turn it on "just to keep up with what's happening." And the stimulus/response effects Facebook produces are akin to gambling, I think--bright lights, pretty pictures, instantaneous response, and suddenly, YAY! You get a message from somebody you know, someone you knew, or someone you've never met. The more messages you send out, in general, the more messages you get back, to the point where you keep the machine by your bed because you might get something in the middle of the night. Electronic addictions are no prettier than drugs, but they at least have the advantage of being legal and socially acceptable, so long as you're not texting while driving or somesuch thing.

But taking a break from the machinery makes me all too conscious of the fact that time spent socializing is time I'm not spending writing. Also, the instantaneous nature of texting, email, instant messaging, or Facebook starts to condition the user--instead of the user being able to turn on, access, and turn off the data at their convenience, there's a tendency for the data to demand instant attention. After all, if you didn't need it right away, why would you carry the data-access machine with you everywhere you go? Some of my best, most relaxing naps in the last year have been on airplanes because I know I'm not going to get a call, text, email, or some other thing that demands instant response.

We're already a nation of short attention spans. What is all this instant information gratification going to do to us? The mind reels.

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