Finding Quiet in a Loud, Busy World

The Internet is one of many distractions we have today. It is rare to see someone sitting still without taking in information through the TV or the Internet, both of which are literally and figuratively noisy.

Paradoxically, that’s part of what I like about being behind a blog. Writing, for me, is a quiet activity. It helps me tune out the rest of the noise and indulge my own thoughts. During the moments I work on Life After Web, I am wholly focused. Even though it is time spent on the Internet, it is not time spent absorbing information. Sometimes I start on paper before nearing my computer. My time is spent thinking, crafting, and sharing my own voice with the world (at least, anyone that happens to find me).

In his essay “Out There in the Middle of the Buzz,” Bill McKibben discusses the effects of technology on our society. He says, “Quiet, solitude, calm: These are no longer automatic parts of the human experience. You have to fight…hard for them,” (p. 161). Humans are losing the ability to experience the natural world around them. We are tied to cell phones, laptops, iPods, anything that keeps us “in touch.” In actuality, the drive to stay connected is isolating.

McKibben later says, “We live in the first moment when humans receive more of their information secondhand than first; instead of relying primarily on contact with nature and with each other, we rely primarily on the prechewed, on someone else’s experience,” (p. 161). Writing forces me to think about the topic at hand, decide how I feel about it, and what emotions, if any, it stirs within.

Since we are surrounded by technology, we must fight for quiet moments in new ways. While my blog still connects me to the virtual world, the act of writing for my blog keeps me grounded in my own thoughts.

Reference:
McKibben, Bill. “Out There in the Middle of the Buzz.” The Wired Society. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1999.

and the Oscar goes to… Al Gore?

First Ronald Reagan went from actor to politician, then Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Jesse Ventura. Perhaps Al didn’t get the memo. He went from politician to working on a now Oscar-winning documentary.

In a world where crossover is becoming the norm, country singers turn pop, musicians become actors, actors become politicians. Is our society becoming more well-rounded, or are we trying to be jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none?

I realize this has nothing to do with the Internet, but it does seem to say something about our society. Perhaps people are becoming more comfortable with stepping outside their traditional roles to try something new. Perhaps, too, we are becoming more accepting of those role changes.

Why Blog?

Blogs fascinate me. As yet another interesting commentary on our society, many employ blogs as a means to express themselves. There is no consistency. Some blogs are filled with facts and research, some are personal diatribes, some are strictly business.

In Seth Godin’s recent post, If no one reads your post, does it exist?, he argues “the act of writing a blog changes people.” While I’m new at this, I agree with his point. Having a blog means you must have something to say, and you must say it well. What better way to learn about yourself?

Nowhere to Hide: Europe May Ban False Web Identities

Europeans may lose the right to create Web and email accounts under false names according to a New York Times article last week (Europe’s Plan to Track Phone and Net Use).

Creating an email account under a pseudonym is common practice, particularly for creating a catch-all for junk email. Several European countries are considering making this practice illegal in response to the terrorist bombings in Spain and England. Some of the possible laws would require all email addresses be traceable to a real name.

What effect does this have on Internet users? Should users be required to divulge their real names for email accounts?

Internet Helps Post-Traumatic Stress Sufferers?

The Associated Press reported on February 19 that a former employee of IBM was suing the company for firing him due to participating in chat rooms while at work. (See article,
Man Sues IBM Over Adult Chat Room Firing
)

The man claims that he visits the chat rooms to help relieve post-traumatic stress from his time in Vietnam. He says that the stress caused him to become “‘a sex addict, and with the development of the Internet, an Internet addict'” and believes he should be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Read the article, it’s entertaining, but is Internet addiction a reality? Psych Central looks at the issue from several angles on its website at PsychCentral.com/netaddiction.

It points out that the Internet itself isn’t addictive, but that some people may exhibit addictive behavior when it comes to Internet use. Technology is merely one more way for a person to avoid their family or problems they may be having. They could just as easily retreat to other activities, such as reading, which may or may not be recognized as addictive.

They also note that a good deal of time spent on the Internet is spent socializing through activities like checking email, chatting, or gaming. Whereas teenagers used to spend hours on the phone, perhaps they are migrating to the Internet to socialize.

As a society, we are quick to find something or someone to blame for any problem. I think the Internet cannot be blamed for addiction. If there is, in fact, a problem with Internet addiction, I think the real problem lies in the user’s subject of avoidance.

If you aren’t convinced and think you, or someone you know, may have an Internet addiction, try a quiz like the one by Net Addiction.

If all else fails, find an attorney that lets clients sue the sky for being blue.

Careful, Flames Can Burn (Relationships, that is)

Social interaction has certainly changed over the years. Sarcasm, for instance, is commonplace in many conversations, but this wasn’t always the case. Now that the Internet provides a way to communicate by typing, all of the cues provided in speech and body language are lost.

One commonly used statistic is that in communication only 7 percent of the meaning is gained from the actual words. Roughly 38 percent comes from vocal cues and the remaining 55 percent from facial expressions. This implies that only very basic literal meaning can be gleaned from a typed message.

Who cares? Well, the person you just emailed might. In a New York Times essay, Daniel Goleman explains, “if we are typing while agitated, the absence of information on how the other person is responding makes the prefrontal circuitry for discretion more likely to fail” (Flame First, Think Later: New Clues to E-Mail Misbehavior, February 20). This means your message may be interpreted differently than you intended. You may have inadvertently offended the recipient because you were unable to alter your speech based on their reactions.

Routine communications have changed with technology. Take the absence of nonverbal cues and add the factor of people feeling less inhibited behind their computers, then there is a whole new dynamic to human interaction.

Before you hit send, read your message to make certain it is clear. It’s just good practice anyway.

How Technology Has Ruined Candy Hearts

With Valentine’s Day in the rearview mirror, I’ve been working my way through candy hearts as a mid-afternoon snack. You know the ones- little, colored, sugary hearts with red lettered endearments like “sweetie” or “my girl.”

At least, that’s what they used to say. Now they say, “Email Me,” “URA Tiger,” “ILU,” and “Fax Me.” Fax me? Even the candy heart has not been able to ignore technology. What I assume is “I Love You” has been shortened to a brief three-letter acronym, and while I’m ever so pleased to know IMA tiger, did we really need to replace the bygone sentiments of candy hearts? Perhaps society no longer understands phrases like “Be Mine” or “Call Me.” You can call me old-fashioned, but I think abbreviations should be reserved for text messages, not invading the food industry.

I wouldn’t have bothered to mention any of this, however, my last morsel this afternoon beckoned me to “Go Girl.” So there you have it.

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