Friday, 13 January 2012

Time out

One of Chuck Klosterman's predictions for 2012 in a Grantland round-up was this:

7. A popular trend story in the mainstream media becomes coverage of "Gen Y Luddites" — teenagers who consciously disdain social networking and technology.

After reading that, I kept a bit of an eye out over the summer break for stories along these lines. I hav the feeling that over 2012 we're going to see a lot of stories about slow information (like slow food, but for the creation and consumption of web content) and people vowing to lay off the internet (internet-free resorts, internet-free days, any app that monitors your internet use). These are, of course, going to go hand in hand with a deluge of quantified and programmable self stories (articles about how my collecting data on every aspect of your life - how much you eat, sleep, exercise, interact with people, your emotional state throughout the day - and using that to help you meet self-improvement or health goals) which would seem contradictory to the first theme, but when has this ever been a logical game?

Anyway - here are a view examples of what I mean:

New York Times technology blogger Nick Bilton has resolved to spend 30 minutes a day without his iPhone.

Katie Roiphe writes on Slate about the popular Freedom app, which cuts you off from the internet for a period of time you specify.

'The Joy of Silence' by Pico Iyer in the New York Times, which starts off as a normal article about the backlash against our ever-connected lives and then devolves into such gorge-raising paragraphs as

In my own case, I turn to eccentric and often extreme measures to try to keep my sanity and ensure that I have time to do nothing at all (which is the only time when I can see what I should be doing the rest of the time). I’ve yet to use a cellphone and I’ve never Tweeted or entered Facebook. I try not to go online till my day’s writing is finished, and I moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part so I could more easily survive for long stretches entirely on foot, and every trip to the movies would be an event.  
David Tate on creating things as a way of breaking free from being a consumer of things.

The links above are not so much about teenage Luddites, but about that generalised anxiety that our always-on, always-connected lives are somehow ruining us. (Mind you, during one of my always-on, always-connected activities prior to the Christmas break, I found an article that said crosswords were going to the the doom of modern society, so this is in all likelihood just that same oh-no-things-are-changing, really-nothing-ever-changes, freakout that every decade burps up.)

I spend 8-10 hours in front of a screen - let's say 70% working, 30% not working and in that grey area where work is just part of your life. I check my iphone incessantly if I'm stuck somewhere with nothing better to do. I also read (paper!) books for at least an hour and a half on weekdays, closer to four hours on weekends. I get through a New Yorker or two most weeks. I no longer read print newspapers, rarely watch tv news, hardly ever visit NZ news websites, and get my daily news from RadioNZ: I trust my friends on twitter to alert me if anything needing my attention has happened. I do not worry about any of these things.

However, a little bit of stillness and switching off wouldn't go amiss in most of our lives. It could, for example, offer a welcome relief from circles of inanity like this StackExchange forum on productivity. (A hint to all posters: you'll be more productive if you stop frequenting this forum, quit reading Lifehacker posts, and generally stop wasting your time trying to optimise every moment of your existence. Trust me.)

No comments: