Get a Life for your Quarter Life

Remember in high school how there was that one cute guy/girl that everyone had a crush on and even though he/she never actually spoke a word to you were convinced that your crush was more sincere/severe than anyone else’s?

This is how I feel about the New York Times online. I just know that one day, it’s going to leave all its other readers for me, pick me up, and move me to Paris, where we can live next to the office of the International Herald Tribune and have an inspired, globally informed and pithy life together.

This is my very long-winded way of saying: I linked to the New York Times on Friday, and I’m linking to them again today. Criticize me if you will. But I’m blinded by love.

Now to the point.

Yesterday, Mark Bittman declared, “I Need a Virtual Break. No, Really.” A self-described “techno-addict,” Bittman realized he had a problem when leaped at the chance to pay for Internet on an airplane. He decided to undergo the unthinkable torture of giving up technology (phones, e-mail, T.V, texting…) for 24 hours. At first, it was brutal; he was so jittery he had to forgo coffee.

But eventually, like my co-worker Liz, who recently gave up her i-phone, Bittman discovered that a literal break from the virtual world was pretty snazzy thing.

Now, as you may or not know, I like to hang out online, A LOT. I was an active member of the “IM-ing is easier than socializing” club in College. I like to check-in with the Internet about every 9 seconds or so, to make sure nothing has changed. I prefer reading my email to breathing.

I also am a professional internet researcher. I frequently joke when someone introduces a topic of conversation, “Yeah, I know. I work for the Internet.”

But the thing is, I don’t work for the Internet. I work for real people who have conceived a site that allows real people to be better informed about their lives. The Internet is not a destination, it’s a mode of transportation. Unfortunately, search engine fatigue will give you the impression that the point of your existence is to be lost in the catacombs of the Web. You’ll look for a long time, if you’re lucky, stumble upon something interesting, if unrelated information, and walk away (assuming your legs haven’t fallen asleep.)

While this kind of addictive, all-consuming Web behavior is becoming the norm, we like to think it doesn’t have to be. There’s lots of great stuff online, but there’s a lot of great stuff in the World too. And there was, by chance, a site that could deliver everything great online in less time, wouldn’t you jump on it? Then, you’d have the best of both worlds. You could take a day off from the Internet, and then come back to find that all the important news stories had been gathered in one place. You’d read perspectives from numerous different sources, and then you could…

Go out and have a conversation with someone about what you learned.
Get involved with a group that puts to use your understanding of a new topic.
Lay down and read a book, feeling smug about the fact that read news and fiction.

And if you love to wander around online, you can do it here, too. But just know that you’ll find all the cool stuff faster. You may still get stuck leaving the house.

[[NB: If you’re my brother, you can have a blackberry, and still be cool.]]


One thought on “Get a Life for your Quarter Life

  1. Hi RB,Thanks for your post and reflection on this. My name is Leif Hansen (I’m the managing director of < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Spark Northwest<>) and I’m one of the two facilitators for the Soul Tech workshop that was recently shown < HREF="" REL="nofollow">last week on the Today Show<>. One of our participants, Ariel Meadows started her < HREF="" REL="nofollow">52NightsUnplugged<> experiment as a result of our workshop, which in turn was mentioned in the NY Times article you’ve sited in your post (Ariel was also on the Today Show for the live portion.) While I do think there are some practical things one can do (i.e. bracket one’s tech time with breaks, set some family boundaries, set a power-timer on your wifi, etc) our workshops are really more about facilitating a process that helps people to think about how technology is helping or hindering the achievement of broader life/work goals.Actually, we’ve just put together a < HREF="" REL="nofollow">7 step e-workbook<> that takes people through the same process. The steps and exercises covered in the e-workbook are basically to:(perhaps first identify what you like about your tech life)1. Identifying your challenges with tech2. Identify the needs trying to get met3. Develop your vision/goals4. Finding your focus5. Finding solutions6. Turning ideas into actions7. Sticking with your plan (can be hardest)I think if people would really take the time to think about what they want from life, and how technology is helping and hindering their moving in that direction, it would be a tremendous first step. Unfortunately, most of us would rather just turn off our minds, and click on some entertainment. Neil Postman called it “Amusing Ourselves to Death”.Good luck and keep us posted on your process!Warmly,Leif


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