Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Instant Insanity: Digital Cleanse

I recently ran into an old friend at a graduation party and we discussed a few things. We caught up on our lives, he told me about a good florist my friend could use in her upcoming nuptials, and he also related some gossip to me he had heard first-hand. The party went on and then we parted ways.

I haven't had any opportunities to see him since, but I did send him a facebook message about the florist. No reply. I sent him a text. I left a voicemail. After all of that, a week later, I feel like I did something wrong. I agonized over whether it got back to him that I related the "gossip" to another friend, if he was mad for another reason, or simply ignoring me.

Finally, through all the confusion, another mutual friend tells me I'm insane, and everything is fine. After removing the oxygen mask, I sat down and thought about it.

With my Blackberry I get every message almost instantaneously from my multiple emails, Facebook, and Twitter. I get voice mails, track missed calls, and admittedly, can ignore all of these alerts by claiming the battery died, or the ringer was off, or the technology failed in some way.

But this system of instant gratification--instant messaging and discussion--is it really a good thing? I drove myself crazy because I didn't get an instant response from my friend. At what point is patience no longer virtuous but endangered? Is our society losing its patience, one social networking site at a time?

I don't want to be caught up in the digital, fast-paced world in which we live. I want to slow down and enjoy the ride. A while ago, John Mayer had a similar revelation, on his blog with his One Week Digital Cleanse:

Hard drive fragmentation is a great metaphor for - if not a literal manifestation of - what’s happened to our brains over years and years of processing small bursts of information. 2009 took fragmentation to a whole new level given the rise of Twitter and the social acceptance of texting people as a substitute to making phone calls. That’s where the one week digital cleanse comes in. I’ll be defragmenting my mental and psychological hard drive...

He lays out a few simple, easy to follow guidelines:

*email only from laptop or desktop computers
*cell phones can only be used to make calls, and no text messages or e-mails are allowed - if you receive a text, you must reply in voice over the phone. E-mails must be returned from a laptop or desktop computer.
*no use of Twitter or any other social networking site - this includes reading as well as posting.
*no visiting of any entertainment or gossip sites. (No need to detail which ones -
you know what they are.)

While I will have no problem with the gossip sites, Facebook and texting will be difficult. But,
I pledge, Friday, June 11, at 9 a.m., I will start a one week digital cleanse.

Blogging is not against the rules, so, hopefully with a clear mind and free hands, I will be able to blog more. Expect great things.

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