Monday, October 26, 2009

Enough already!

One of my favorite writers is Peggy Orenstein, who contributes regularly to the Sunday New York Times Magazine. Her insights about raising children and issues that affect women always seem to be right on target. Her latest column describes her efforts to stay off the Internet. She refers to these efforts as "self-binding," a reference to Ulysses, who "lashed himself to the ship's mast to avoid succumbing to the Sirens' song." In Orenstein's case, the Sirens' song was coming from the Internet, and she was powerless to resist it. Eventually she found an app called Freedom, which works only for Macs, and "blocks your Internet access for up to eight hours at a stretch. The only way to get back online is to reboot your computer, which ... is cumbersome and humiliating enough to be an effective deterrent." Unfortunately, I don't have a Mac and must regulate my own online behavior; I regularly fail to do this, and sometimes find myself using Wikipedia at two o'clock in the morning to find information I don't need at all. I know better, but I just keep clicking on those links, getting deeper and deeper into the virtual hole I have dug for myself and only dimly aware of the passage of time. As Orenstein says, what I am essentially doing is "reflexively indulg[ing] every passing interest," trying to get "answers to every fleeting question ..." This is, of course, impossible, and means I can't give anything my sustained attention. Orenstein concludes with a warning: "[A]s alluring as we can find the perpetual pursuit of little thoughts, the net result may only be to prevent us from forming the big ones."


Marie S. Newman said...

I just read Betsy's post about multitasking, and agree that it is pernicious. Every time I get interrupted, it does take awhile to settle back into what I was doing. It was always a problem, and now it's worse because the interruptions come in all forms.

Betsy McKenzie said...

How is it going, tying yourself to the mast, Ulysses?

Marie S. Newman said...

So far, I would have to say it hasn't been a great success!