Life Without the Web
My (Probably Crazy) Plan To Give Up the Internet
Posted Wednesday, April 7, 2010, at 6:55 AM ET
I’ll be 45 years old in October, and with middle age comes the horrifying realization that my time on earth is way too short and—biologically speaking, at least—it’s all down hill from here.
“It all goes by so fast,” is one of the those clichés you hear throughout your life, but now, when another parent says it as we discuss the joys and sorrows of child rearing, it sounds like the most poignant thing I’ve ever heard. The question I’ve been wrestling with lately is whether it’s all going by so fast because that’s just the reality of middle age or because of the way I’ve been living my life. Specifically, I’ve started to wonder whether that feeling might be connected to all the time I spend online. Too often I sit down to dash off a quick e-mail and before I know it an hour or more has gone by.
Over the last several years, the Internet has evolved from being a distraction to something that feels more sinister. Even when I am away from the computer I am aware that I AM AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER and am scheming about how to GET BACK ON THE COMPUTER.
About a month ago, I started seriously thinking about going offline for an extended period of time. I weighed the pros and cons, and the pros came out on top. Yes, I want to be more present when I am around my kids and not be constantly jonesing to check my e-mail. But I also need to carve out some space for myself to make new work.
I suggest that you read the whole piece. I wonder if we all feel this way at times, whether it is the ever-present specter of the computer, work, or other issues that tear your attention away from family and friends.
I have some of the same concerns as this guy. I am concerned that my use of the Internet is, in many ways, stealing time away from both my family and my work. This is not a simple equation since much of my work is online. I specialize in instructional technology for language learning. I am the guy who is supposed to know everything that is happening in this space before it hits the mainstream. This means that I have to monitor the buzz from Twitter to tech blogs. These provide me with valuable links to services, papers, and insights that I wouldn’t get if I didn’t monitor these online spaces.
Additionally, I’m a little isolated, as many academics are. I am surrounded by other faculty and they are isolated too. The reason is that universities don’t hire people who have the same interests in the same department. I can talk about general TESL and SLA topics, but these are no more than surface-level conversations because nobody else has the same specific interests that I do. This is isolating (those who have ample phd students around may have more people to share with). The Internet is my professional development, my graduate seminar, my pool of resources with which I build my networks and my knowledge.
So, I am online all day from checking my email when I wake to checking Twitter before I got to bed. I’ve done a pretty good job at stepping away in the past, taking days with the family and disconnecting. However, with the recent addition of the iPhone to our family, this is now impossible. I am always connected for better or worse. Now, it is no longer good enough to get out of the house, but I have to have enough control to play with my son at the playground and not tune into NPR and check my streams. This is a conscious battle that I think we will be increasingly having into the foreseeable future.
I won’t be ditching my computers any time soon, but it is sometimes a temptation to do so.