Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Vulnerable to Digital Overload?
Not unless you count the endless hours of TV I "watched" in Uzbekistan, where I lived with a local family and had no choice in the matter. But of course since I couldn't understand a lot of what I saw, it couldn't stimulate or numb, fragment or distract me as programming in my own language might.
Yet the internet has done to me what television never did. While logging on gives me an initial sense of peace or connectedness, my online behavior takes me from one small stimulus to another so quickly that after an hour or two I sometimes come away as dazed as if I'd spent the time madly flipping television channels or glued to one of those modern news shows full of short, frightening stories, overlaid with sidebars and breaking news scrolling across the bottom. Overstimulated and jumpy.
Tearing myself away from looking for messages, checking on this and that, I do something physical like tidying up the kitchen or going for a walk. Or I do some writing - even on the computer - or read a book. It's still media, but feels completely different.
Now that I'm working from home and have a reliable computer and great Internet connection - even without an iPhone in my pocket - I think I will need some limits. Not like my friend's ten-year-old son, who is only allowed two hours of "screen time" a day, but certainly no more than two hours at a stretch. It wouldn't hurt to schedule some two-hour meal breaks with no electronic devices nearby. I think I'll need regular vacations from 2010 just to stay sane.
The NPR program "Fresh Air" included an interview on this topic today. See Digital Overload: Your Brain on Gadgets.