Sunday, September 23, 2012

In the Narrows

Back in June, at the start of my summer break, I decided to take a break from social media.  It didn't last long.  My grandmother's death had me clicking back over to Facebook to post about her and connect with family, and I never looked back.

The impulse or insight behind that decision, though, has continued to haunt me.  Although I spend more and more of my time on line, less and less of that time is spent reading blogs and newspapers and other food for thought.  Instead, I obsessively check Facebook (and, to a lesser extent, Twitter) to see what other people have posted links to or comments about--but I don't, then, follow the links.  I just note and move on.

Even more troubling, I've noticed that my attention span for reading off-line, whether it's a newspaper or a work of non-fiction, has shrunk considerably.  I'm now in the mental habit of clicking, darting from site to site, headline to headline, bit to bit, and even this among a shrinking number of sites.

As of this morning, then, I'm starting an experiment.  I've deactivated my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and am going to see if I can keep them inactive for a few weeks, at least, and just see what happens, how it feels, what I do instead.

In order to stay in touch with people, I've reactivated the comments at my other blogs, and of course there's always email.

It's just...I feel like there's something wrong with my time allocation these days.  Hours slip away, days slip away, and much of my professional mojo is gone.  I don't know that social media are to blame, but think at some point they started to be problematic, and the methods I've been using to try and rein in my use seem not to be working on that deeper, neurological-habit level.

To be honest, part of me feels really bereft without those accounts:  cut off, isolated, like I'm talking here into the void (as opposed to posting on a common wall where my friends and "Facebook friends" will see and might respond).  But as I say, let me give this a few weeks, and we'll see what happens & how I feel.


Danielle Mari said...

Have you read "Hamlet's Blackberry" yet? I have a feeling it may speak to you as it did to me!

Chin up!

Laura Vivanco said...

"part of me feels really bereft without those accounts: cut off, isolated, like I'm talking here into the void"

a) there's at least two of us here in the void, leaving comments for you and
b) you'll be meeting up with lots of your twitter contacts in York very, very soon.

Re the lack of concentration, if you want to re-start the work club, let me know.

E. M. Selinger said...

Hi, Laura! Hi, Dani! Thanks for your comments. I suspect that stepping off Facebook and Twitter will bring me back into the world of blogging, and I love hearing from you.

Dani, I haven't read "Hamlet's Blackberry," but from the reviews it sounds exactly relevant to the situation I'm in. Perhaps I'll take a look when things settle down a bit.

Laura, I may well want to start up the club again, once I get back from York. I'll drop you a note about that in early October.

For now, it's off to (hastily) prep a class on Rumi, whom I haven't taught before.

Good to hear your voices, both of you. :)


Boots Mewski said...

I ended up giving up my Internet back in November last year. The first couple of weeks, I was fidgety, thinking, "What am I missing?" After those first few weeks though, I felt this huge relief. I wasn't tied down, losing hours on the internet anymore. My relationship with my friends had improved as I was checking on them more in real time, rather than through the electronic world. I was out walking more; enjoying the outdoors; spending time sorting through my thoughts; writing/making music more frequently (all among other benefits).

I understand you have a family, so obliterating the Internet (in your home, of course) may not be the best choice for everyone affected, but any opportunity you can get to shut off, please do! Bask in the world around you!

Mark Scroggins said...

Was wondering where you were, E -- but admire the experiment. I, too, have found my attention span shrinking, & fear it's some combination of internet media & just plain encroaching age. But I hope it's nothing that a solid daily morning hour of reading Ruskin can't counteract! (Of course, JR himself, I more and more see, had the attention span of Mountain Dew-stoked 9-year-old much of the time...)

E. M. Selinger said...

Good to see you here, Mark! I can't say I've spent an hour reading Ruskin in many a year--in fact, come to think of it, I haven't spent an hour reading anything, on any regular basis, for longer than I'd like to admit.

Let's see... I spend an hour commuting pretty regularly, which time I use to listen to music, as a general rule. (Lots of Gogol Bordello this morning, and my son has me hooked on Swell Season.)

I spend an hour working out, three times a week. The classes are bought & paid for, and I love them, so I go.

I spend an hour a day, as a rule, watching romantic TV dramas from Korean, or sometimes Taiwan.

On the days that I teach, I spend, say, two hours doing class prep, but mostly that's re-reading, nothing new.

Of course, I probably spent an hour reading Twitter and Facebook pretty regularly, so maybe I've opened up a window for something new, now? We'll see. For now, I think it's mostly been replaced by catching up on back emails. On the other hand, I did just clocked a few pleasant minutes over at your Ruskin blog. That's got to count for something!

Laura Vivanco said...

"I spend an hour a day, as a rule, watching romantic TV dramas from Korean, or sometimes Taiwan."

It's a different medium, but I suspect that the way you watch TV that's the equivalent of reading for an hour.

E. M. Selinger said...

Well, yes and no, Laura. It's true that I think of all that watching as "romance research," broadly construed. And I certainly spent many a happy hour talking about Kdrama (as it's called) with other scholars at the IASPR conference last week.

On the other hand, because it's in a language I don't know, there's a limit on how much I can do with the learning. An hour a day of reading, say, Eva Illouz's latest book on "Why Love Hurts" or a collection of essays on Middlebrow culture might give me new ideas to work with, in a way that the Kdramas don't.

Also, to be honest, my way of watching TV involves a lot more snuggling on the couch w/ my wife than my usual way of reading. :) Maybe just a smidge less concentration involved. But more fun.