The problem with ‘EVERYTHING’

Like too many people, I spend hours a day sitting in front of my computer. For the most part I do what I’m supposed to be doing, but being a writer I freely admit that at times the line between work and play can get more than a little blurry. I may be writing a story, and all of a sudden I realize that, to keep myself from looking like a fool, or like more of a fool than I usually do, I need to do a little research. Having the ability to do that almost without giving it a second thought is awesome. I type a few characters and, more often than not, the answer is there, before my eyes. The problem is that once I’m done I often find myself going off on some sort of tangent, rather than getting back to whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing, and to be honest most of those things are a waste of time… the kind of lumber that accumulates in our minds, and winds up clogging everything. That’s the downside of having the world at our fingertips.

In the ‘old days’ if I wanted to do some research I had to reach for a book (if I was lucky… otherwise I had to go to that daunting place called ‘the library’); if I wanted to catch up with the news I’d have to either buy a newspaper or turn to my trusty old TV (either way I was stuck with one, or maybe two, points of view); if I wanted to watch a movie chances were that I’d have to leave my house altogether, either to go to a theater or to a video store. Today I don’t even own a TV, and books, music, news and movies are all a click away (as for games, I refuse to install any, not because I’m not interested, but rather because I know I’m too easily distracted, and I know that if I happened to get hooked on a game I’d never get anything done). In other words, as our gadgets converge our activities too become intertwined. For the most part that is a good thing, as many of the divisions that are being torn down were artificial (research may involve a news-former-paper article, a book, a documentary or a lecture, and being able to jump from one of those to the next, to say nothing of having them immediately accessible, is most definitely an advantage), but then there is the problem of our ever shrinking attention spans… or maybe I should say ‘my’ (hence my reluctance to install a single game).

I freely admit that, while I shake my head at my own inability to concentrate, the idea of doing research the old fashioned way terrifies me. I have gotten used to the convenience of having everything at my fingertips, but at the same time there is a problem with the fact that, as walls are torn down, and everything is at my fingertips, that is bound to include, well, everything, and that is where I tend to get in trouble. Put a kitten or a puppy on my path and all thoughts of doing what I’m supposed to be doing fly out the window.

One thought on “The problem with ‘EVERYTHING’”

  1. MS. SAAL

    I started out a as professional writer with an IBM Selectric and welcomed the home computer (Mac every time!) and the word processor with open arms. While it has made research easier than I could ever have imagined, it does have the pitfalls that you mention. A simple query turns into an afternoon of meandering through endless tangents.

    During one such off-trail search, I came across a quote from Dostoevsky about sarcasm: “the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”

    This caused me to reflect on now many people I know that don’t know the difference between sarcasm and irony.

    This inspired me to write a few paragraphs as a tag to another piece that had nothing to with either (it was about record collecting!) which led to the requisite research to fact-check my article and lo and behold there was so much available on sarcasm that my tag turned into a a 13-page manuscript!

    Finally, I would like to recommend a book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains I2011). The author Nicholas Carr is a “traditional” editor who has become physically “addicted” to the internet. The first chapter read like I had written it about myself and my experience with my computer . . .

    Again, keep on keepin’ on!!!

    NEAL

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