Uexpress reprinted permission.
Among other eccentricities, I have no smartphone and I never wanted. It's just bad for me to spend my working hours connecting to the Internet like a cafe noodles without wearing Google in my pocket. If I have to check the time in Galway, Ireland or Andrew Benintend's average kicking in 2017, I can wait until I get back to my desk. I was even known to turn off my old-fashioned, steamy piston phone to avoid my voice.
The other day, I noticed three teenage girls walking along the sidewalk, all absorbing each other in their small bright screens. Had someone entered the open pit, would her friends notice it? You see the kids everywhere these days, crammed in public places of insane typing with their thumb.
Texting protects me as perhaps the least convenient way of communication from the smoke signal. Do not forget that my hands are too large for my thumb. People often do not reveal irony in newspaper columns, and only rarely in e-mails. Unconscious texts must cause dozens of murders.
Besides, the police can refer them.
Basically, however, I need to avoid the internet for a considerable amount of time each day to avoid what some people call "information disease" – a pathological condition caused by spending too much time on the network.
This has nothing to do with the technique. For me, the most compelling invention of the 21st century is a digital TV recorder that allows watching movies and sports without commercializing. Particularly during the election season, this is a God's gift.
Seriously, however, the internet was a great asset to people in my work. For a literary fellow who feels claustrophobic in libraries, that is liberation. The other day, a Facebook friend published Nicholas Carr's Atlantic article on dangers on the Internet.
"The Internet was a worshiper as a writer," he explained. "Investigations that once required stacks or regular libraries space can now be done in a matter of minutes. A few Google searches, a few quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I have a recognized fact or a small offer I had."
But especially for those of us with what the late John Leonard called "800-river minds", ie columnists who are costing more than ever, the internet can also be a trap.
"Over the last couple of years," Carr frets, "I had an unpleasant feeling that someone or something had rubbed my brain, telling neuronal circuits and reprogramming memory. My mind is not going – as far as I can tell – but it's changing. I do not mean the way I thought it. I feel it most powerful when I read it.
"My concentration often begins to drift after two or three pages. I feel nervous, I lose the thread, I begin to look for something else. I feel like I always return my disordered brain back to the text."
Me too. Partly, I know, it's the age. It's not about the Internet that I've forgotten the word for a small, shelled animal I should make for a joke. My beagles sometimes forced them. But if I could not call the word armadillo, I remember exactly where I could find my copy of "Arkansas Mammals". Problem solved.
Online, however, comes to concentration. "Ding!" There is an e-mail message. "Bloop!" Someone wants to discuss it on Facebook. The Washington article is linked to something in the Atlantic. And then to Mother Jones, the Irish Times, whatever. By the time I get back to the original piece, I forgot what it was about and I should start from scratch. Or not.
Carr thinks this is a significant historical development similar to a printer. I'm not quite sure because she still reads and writes. Certainly, I have noticed the loss of self-confidence in political journalism written by young people with little understanding of the historical context.
In addition, there is a simple repair. Quit stupid thing at 4 am. Take the dogs for a walk along the river. Re-enter the physical world. We are regularly encountered with scenes, legumes, ducks, pelicans, teeters, lobsters, and occasional bald eagles. Any day now, Canadian geese will go downhill in a giant V-shaped flock.
Our afternoon walk is often when my wife fills me with the joy and mourning of friends and family, gathered from the interaction with her loyal army of girls.
I'm back home, there's time to read real books.
The Internet is just a tool; it does not have to be a way of life.