Last week a friend on Facebook linked an interesting article by a writer who went a full month without using the Internet for anything. In this age such a venture seems absurd as we're all increasingly Internet reliant. Having continual access to Google can be a boon. For example, recently some friends visited Portland and during the entire time we were together they were never separated from their iPhones. I appreciated this continual link in that we easily and quickly located tapas for dinner (link to place). However, the younger of the two spent a ton of her time interacting with her screen instead of with the people around her - texting and messaging and emailing. It's interesting to me that such a powerful convenience tool can so easily become the greatest time suck of all.
This time suck wasn't so much of a concern for me when I used my old computer. The thing was cranky, clunky, and crashed within minutes of loading a YouTube video. Between that and the fact that I found myself tired from staring at a computer screen at work all day, I rarely logged on at home. And I accomplished so much. I read constantly (averaging about 3 books a week, even when my daily commute was reduced). Since this was before I could stream Netflix through the XBox, I rarely turned the TV (okay, except between 6 and 7 pm to watch the same 5 repeats of Family Guy). I wrote letters, cleaned the apartment, cajoled my husband for a fencing lesson etc. I never felt particularly bored and I continually got stuff done.
This all changed this past September when I started my online MLIS program and started spending a ridiculous amount of time on my new laptop. During the quarter I always have a browser open and am continually logged into MyUW so I can listen to my lectures, turn in homework and post on the boards. I have chat open for group projects. Now a person with reasonable self-control would probably be able to leave only the necessary windows open and power through their work like a champ. But I am not a person with reasonable self-control. I am also easily distracted. Eventually I found a way to work on my computer without checking Facebook every three minutes, but it was difficult and resulted in only going online to do the work I have to do and then putting the laptop to the side while I read or drafted my assignments. If I have to write or use the laptop for an assignment, I have found the little switch that turns off the wireless signal to be the greatest invention of all time.
This putting aside the distraction isn't possible at work as I cannot do most of my assigned tasks without an Internet connection. I need it to edit records in our ILS, to update holdings in OCLC, to run ILL requesting, and to edit documents on the shared network folders. When in Circ I need to be monitoring email accounts as well. So unplugging at work isn't really an option. At work what needs to happen in that I change how I interact with the Internet. I find that in order to be productive, I need some sort of background noise. When I'm really in the midst of something, I easily tune things out, but I seem to need something to jump start it, a louder background to react against. It's probably because I grew up with a twin sister in a family of loud New Yorkers that today I find I cannot even do class reading in utter silence. I have been known to do laundry just to have the sound of the dryer running for white noise. It's pathetic.
But when you're sitting in a technical services office, laundry isn't an option and internet radio is too tempting. So the challenge has become to create background noise without the Internet. This is why for the past couple of days I've been cranking out my weeding projects to the sound of Little Shop of Horrors, Sunset Boulevard, and other choice items from our media collection. It's working somewhat - I am finding myself more focused, but also more in need of regular breaks. I'm not sure if I'm necessarily getting more done but I feel like it because the moments of focus are longer and deeper.
I'm still intrigued, though, by the idea of walking away from the Internet for a month, or at least limiting my interaction heavily. Work email whenever, but personal email, Facebook, and reading only at certain points in the day (before and after work, for example). Could I manage that for a full week? Next Friday I leave on vacation and that might be the perfect time to attempt something like this. I might get more reading or writing done. I might be just as lazy and bored. But, until I remove the great procrastinatory variable, I'll never know.
3 months ago