I am completely and totally hooked on the internet. It is like the line from the Eagle’s song Hotel California, where “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” I have found that once I discovered the web and signed in, oh so many years ago, the addiction has since only gotten worse.
So much to do, so little time.
I have been having a hell of a time trying to keep up with the entire myriad of social apps and networks that I think I need in order to keep current with life. I have discovered that I have more resources available to me than I have time in my day. So with that little nugget of knowledge, I have made the decision to try and downsize. The key word here is Try.
But what do I get rid of?
This becomes more difficult to determine with the advent of new and ingenious devices and software. It is important to point out that I have a mediocre knowledge about technology and how to use everything I own. I use the Fly-by-My-Pants mentality of learning. Basically, I have the knowledge of one who learns by mistake or when someone, who has a clue, introduces me to the finer points of using an app or new software. Sometimes, when I can’t find anyone or have used my maximum amount of brain cells on a subject, I type my problem into the search bar of YouTube and watch a video tutorial. This has actually passed me in my accounting class for business school. True story.
Right now, I am using a wonderful new browser called RockMelt and it has fabulous integration of sites. It also shows my contacts status and whether or not they are online, all in one handy screen. I can see who is posting what from all over the world and I never have to leave my front screen. The problem is, there is so much that is going on that I literally get over whelmed. Whether it is news that is being posted on Al Jeezera–English, updates on Twitter, or even a new comic that will certainly make me laugh on The Oatmeal, the amount of information and my insatiable need to know is causing problems in other parts of my life.
My two children, the loves of my life, get quite annoyed when they ask me to do something and my standard response is, “In a moment, darling.” Their annoyance is not that I ask them to wait, but rather it comes from my lack of remembering to actually go and help them. Breakfast time has gone by with me buying stock on Empire Avenue, and yet forgetting to heat up the oatmeal for my youngest. My oldest asks me what the weather is going to be like and I log into weather.com to see what it says rather than just look out the window or watching local news.
I no longer subscribe to any written newspaper nor do I pay for any kind of network TV service, such as cable or satellite. I do subscribe to Netflix and Hulu+, along with being a proud member of the Amazon.com world. This is an important place for me as I also have a Kindle that I would be lost without. I home school my kids and my oldest takes her advanced science classes online along with ELA and her Art. All of us have our own e-mails, YouTube accounts and Facebook pages. We don’t even use the landline phone in the house for 90% of our phone calls. If it is not via FaceTime or Skype, then it is on our cell phones. Our entire life is based on the concept of having and using a computer. If satellites were knocked out of service, my whole family would come to a complete and utter stand still. I am not even sure I know where a real flashlight is, because my daughter has an app on her iPod touch that is a flashlight. At this point in time, if we even lose electricity we’re screwed.
So what needs to be removed in order for me to not be so overwhelmed? Well, it seems obvious to me that I need to grasp to concepts of limits. Not only about how much time I spend online, but also with what I spend my time on. I really don’t need to know what is happening right this minute in India (via Times of India or TOI), nor do I need to know the latest of what Ryan Seacrest is doing (via E!online). And although I love reading about very interesting things that happen in New Zealand, a country that I would love to visit, having to access it every day (via NZH, aka the New Zealand Herald) it is not really all that necessary in the running of my life. Unfortunately, this is the kind of stuff I have to remind myself of daily, as almost everything I see is interesting to me. If I don’t make myself a mental note to do this, my oldest will enter 6th grade and I won’t find out about it until two weeks later.
Why this sudden need to Know?
When I was in high school, the only thing I seemed to care about was whatever sport I was in, whatever was going to happen during the weekend and whether or not I was going to be the popular kid (I wasn’t, but I am OK with that). I did not care what was happening in the world and I certainly didn’t care about anyone outside of my immediate circle– unless it was Bryan Adams, any actor that was in Sixteen Candles or any movie/song by Prince. Thankfully, I have gotten so much better as I have matured. I actually care about what happens on Earth and beyond, not just what is going on in my little world. That stated, I will still watch Sixteen Candles if I see it in reruns.
The world wide web settled into my daily life in the early 1990’s and became a major factor in my education in 1994. I used the internet for a majority of my research for college and quite quickly all the various sites started to become second nature. I loved everything that was offered…well, except those annoying pop-up ad’s. I went from paying for AOL to finding free ISP’s through dial-up, then to having cable and eventually to using DSL. I have learned so much and, for once in my life, I actually want to turn off the TV and open up my Kindle or my laptop and learn more about the world.
Yes, interact. Many have scoffed at me and the idea that I can be on the internet and have real interaction. Apparently, the only way for some to interact is all up in someone else’s personal space. The internet, I have been informed, closes me off from the “real” world. I disagree most whole-heartedly. Not only do I interact with people who I have lost touch with from my youth, I also make plans, get information, act on that information, save money and learn 1000% more than I did in school or by watching regular TV. I also get a lot less annoyed with the internet as opposed to with people. When something annoys me online, I can walk away and no one thinks I am a complete jerk. Not so much in real life.
I am not dismissing going out and having one-on-one contact with actual human beings, but I don’t think I am using one kind of interaction versus another. Like anything in life, it is all about balance and moderation. Which if you listen to my kids, are not skills that I seem to possess in any quantity at all.
Answer the question.
So, I still have to figure out how to make the various demands of my life blend around my wants. Obviously, I need to make that boundary line more visible in the morning to ensure that my kids don’t think they are raising themselves. Additionally, I think the use of some kind of timing device should be in place for any one site that I land on. But let’s face it: the fact is that with 24/7 news cycles and the ability to be online every minute of the day all around the world, wanting to know NOW has become a major element in our culture.
Part of me wonders how anyone can even get a fair jury trial anymore. Let’s face it, most everything that happens has a court of public appeal where we all have the ability to voice our opinions and be the judge and jury before we have facts. Streaming online, instant pictures/videos and phones that are connected to the world have made “on-the- spot” reporters. Those who are standing near anything that is happening can hold their camera phones up and record, then post, what has happened within minutes of it occurring. This type of “reporting” is a trend that makes news channels, and their so-called objective reporters, almost obsolete. It is a great way to get first-hand accounts of the situations, but it seems that once the news stations get a hold of it, the editing process ends up taking away from the authenticity of the video.
I digressed. One of my issues is the ability to get sidetracked super quick. Notice how I have yet to make any decision about what internet usage to cut out of my daily life. All I seem to know for sure is that I keep finding reasons to watch, read and be connected.
Strap a pair on
As any parent knows, there comes a time when you have to let your kids go as they grow up. You have to trust that when they are out of your sight that they are going to do the right thing and hope that what you have taught them, they will remember and use. To have a boat-load of common sense also helps. So, like a good parent, I am going to cut the cord on my online obsession and just let some things go. I will work on my blog more, keep in contact with my friends through actual conversations versus direct messaging (DM), and possibly—just possibly—unplug and make sure my kids are getting the best part of my attention. It is a work in progress; however I know that it takes time to make major changes if you don’t want a massive backlash.
For me, keeping in contact with those who want to chat, blog or interact with me is important and I want to do it all the time. But first, I need my coffee in the AM and my kids to give me a hug after I feed them breakfast. After that, they are on their own until noon. Showing them how to work within limits and boundaries is as important as teaching them math. The only way to really make a point is to do it yourself. So, my online activities will be less during my time with them and more on my “free time”.
Leading from the front is a mantra from one of my idols, Richard Marcinko. If I can emulate that, then I will be doing well for everyone involved with my life.
Until next time, I wish you happiness, health and a winning lottery ticket.
Jessica Graefe Martinez