Today, I am actually sitting down at my desk as I write this, not in my usual (and coincidentally adjacent to my food pantry) locale on the kitchen countertop. This is not by choice, unfortunately, as I must remain near enough my phone jack and modem that the telephone wire can reach my laptop.
Therein lies the problem. I am without wireless internet. Just as the way phone lines went from rotary landlines, to cordless, to the younger generation eschewing a landline for strictly cell access, I have not been hard-wired to the internet in years. And it is decidedly unsettling.
For the last few weeks I have woken up each morning, and as part of my routine, attempted to check my e-mail, facebook, fantasy baseball roster, and local news headlines only to be rebuffed. My immediate reaction is disbelief: if I just wait another minute it will load. And when it dawns on me (literally after ten minutes) that I may not be able to connect, I have a panic attack.
Nevermind that I can connect to the internet by walking over to the modem, plugging it in, and going through the process of restarting my laptop (which perhaps is the only “process” I can complete with the press of the power button). I freak out anyways. What? How will I know what Ashton Kutcher is twittering about today? How many facebook friends will compose eloquent status updates that I will NEVER read. Oh the humanity.
Honestly, I don’t completely attribute my daily breakdown to an addiction to modern technology (spoken just like an addict), but rather a break in my delicately constructed routine. E-mail comes before sipping coffee, but not before brushing my teeth and perhaps putting some oatmeal in the microwave.
Nonetheless, I found my desperate attempts to connect to wireless internet unnerving. Why was knowing how many doubles my fantasy baseball team essential to my daily existence? I am not sure, but I became acutely aware that it clearly was. In fact, I am sure I have showed up late to work on multiple occasions because I was checking some local headline that I found interesting (and coincidentally finishing my bowl of cereal because I get downright fierce in the morning if I lack sustenance).
The opposite, however, has occurred now that I have completely given up on my spotty wireless router and plugged directly in to the internet. When I leave this desk area, I am free of all the mindless facebook/e-mail/twitter checks that I do without even realizing it (a recent NY Times article stated: “Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour,”. Yeah, maybe if they haven’t become enraptured with spider solitaire for the morning. That same article also discussed the brain’s addiction to dopamine. An interesting read: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/technology/07brain.html?scp=2&sq=multitasking&st=cse)
I discovered that it was nice to be able to focus on one thing at a time. And not just the seemingly obvious things like accomplishing more reading while not sitting next to a computer. Last night I watched The Big Lebowski straight through for the first time ever and it vaulted up the list of my favorite movies. I never would have caught the subtle dialogue which makes the movie if I was half invested in reading a New York Times article online (maybe not the greatest point, but you catch my drift).
I am not sure if I have actually been more productive with my time, but I have surely spent less time with a computer in front of my face. Which also makes the time when I sit down to my computer all the more focused (hence the recent spike in blog posts. Also coinciding with the end of the academic year, but still). Anyhow, in the span of a few weeks I went from being absolutely panicked about not being able to use Wikipedia in every room of my house, to being absolutely comforted by the confinement of my computer to the corner. The beast is in its cage. Until I get a new router, at least.