Internet Yin Yang

I am slowly turning into mouse potato. Sucked into the screen, oblivious to time and space. An hour online (or so I thought) and yet an entire morning has ticked by in the real world. Sort of like stumbling into the wardrobe closet and finding yourself in Narnia.  Only, it’s the reverse.  Time shuts down at the screen. But it goes on in real time.

I have attempted too many times to curb Internet use.  Mornings only. Not. Unplug by 4PM. Sometimes. Because there’s always something I forgot.  A miniscule thing I have to check. And wham, a little peek becomes an hour, and then I’m drawn into the vortex again.  Worse, I have lost all powers of concentration. Computer-deficit disorder. Somehow, I can no longer stay focused on one page. Even do just one thing, at a time. (Honestly, are you still able to read a long book without distraction?)

But why is the Internet so addicting?  Maybe it’s the capacity to connect to anyone, at anytime.  Perhaps it’s the abundance of information in a second.  Probably it’s the gossiping, the peek into everyone else’s lives, or their thoughts, their perfect tagged smiles, or even their food.  Or possibly because someone, somewhere is finally paying attention. Maybe. But I believe it’s certainly about this one place where everyone is seemingly free. No boundaries. The closest thing we can get to a real democracy.  Where money does not rule. Where there are no protocols or rules of conduct and no one to tell you you’re not fancy enough, affluent enough, pretty enough, or even grammar-worthy enough. And everyone’s just like everyone else.

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” -Peter Steiner

You see, never in my wildest dreams did I think I could read Alain de Botton’s thoughts.  Or that Paolo Coelho would follow me.  Or that I could study almost anything, without big business or government screening what gets on my head, or my plate. Even that I could write to Time Magazine and have them post my comment for the world to see. And that I could think out loud and have hundreds read them.   And that maybe, I might have found a wormhole to change worlds.

So how does this work?  Where do I find the Yin and Yang of it all? I reckon, the challenge is to sift through the Internet bounty and separate the wheat from the chaff.  Also, to keep the humanity despite the machine. For example:

  • The nonsensical games are the virtual black hole. So are the countless links. Stop tripping on them. These are the absolute time warps.
  • Treat an inbox as you would have a mailbox. Check it but once a day (ok, twice.) Just do not check in every hour.  And please stop bringing out your Blackberry when you’re out having dinner with friends.
  • Facebook and Twitter should mimic real life. You don’t hover over someone else’s life the entire day.   Or endlessly sing yourself praises.
  • Make your own boundaries in a world without bounds. We often hide behind the mask of anonymity, mistaking brashness for courage. I have read too much hate posts online. That, and way too much information: like what you have for dinner, everyday.
  • Take time to dive through the Internet gunk slowly.  Some emails and articles should be pondered on, digested and absorbed, not skimmed through.
  • Spend more time in the real world, however imperfect it may be.  Unplug when your children come home from school. Connect with friends and family you can actually hold.
  • Constantly be in awe and respect the enormity of the power that now lies in your hands. You no longer need pigeons or a plane. Make sense of every connection made, however  uninvolved it might be. Your integrity is your word. Speak your own truth as best you can. Especially now, because the entire world might just read it.
  • And remember, the virtual world has no sense of time or space. Log off and all virtual time will cease. It waits for you.  And all your spaces stay put. It’s the same space next time. Log off from the real world and real time persists, leaving you behind. It does not wait. And that expanse that was your life is never the same again.

So now I take off my Mouse Potato hat. Surely it will be where I leave it for next time. Logging off. To catch up on time. Get on real spaces.>


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