I had to smile when I read my horoscope this morning: “Save the internet and other distractions for after you do your work. Otherwise your thoughts and energy will spin out in all kinds of directions.” I think I need to tape this message to my computer and make it my mantra. Yes, I am guilty of serious procrastination when it comes to getting my work done. Case in point: it’s deadline day and I am frantically writing my column at the last minute.
It’s so easy to get lost on the internet. Often it’s an email promising an alluring foreign destination that grabs my attention. Hmmm, let me check the airfares. And I’m off on a wild ride to distant corners of the globe. After twenty minutes I shake myself out of my trance and say, “Back to work.” A little while later I might have a question about something, and off I go into the ether chasing rainbows and little factoids to satisfy my curiosity.
My son said recently, “We could look that up online.” Years ago, I told him, we found information from books. Imagine that. Baby boomers like me remember the days when encyclopedia sets adorned every home’s bookshelves, and we had to go to the library to research reports. Not any more. Now everything we want to know, it seems, is a few keystrokes away. The question is are we better off?
I’m not so sure. A recent newspaper article said computer usage is changing the way we remember things. Our brains don’t seem to hold onto information like they used to. Experts say keeping our brains fit becomes more important as we age, yet computers seem to encourage the opposite. What’s a person to do?
Disconnecting from electronic distractions would be the obvious choice, but it’s hard when your profession requires you to be in touch. I haven’t found it necessary to get a Blackberry or iPhone yet and, while they have their allure, I just don’t want to be connected during every waking hour. Friends who own them tell me they like being able to keep up with their email, but to me these devices are just another distraction. In fact, it seems people are sometimes more tuned into their iPhones than they are to the people around them.
Texting is another pet peeve of mine. I know everyone does it, but I don’t understand its appeal. I’m not good at texting so calling people always seems a more efficient choice. Besides I want to hear people’s voices, engage in a little small talk, and connect on a personal level. Texting seems so impersonal, and words alone don’t convey feelings very well.
It seems we are moving more and more into less personal contact with one another. Meeting people face to face is a rarity nowadays, yet that’s where the best communication takes place. Remember body language? Smiling at people, being attentive, laughing, listening, eye contact—all those things are missing when you send words through the air. Somehow LOL doesn’t mean the same as the sound of a good, hearty laugh, especially when combined with happy eyes, crinkled at the corners.
I’m on a mission these days to connect personally (i.e., face to face) with as many of my friends as possible—old and new, close and far away. You might recall that my husband and I visited an old friend of mine in California last summer. He died unexpectedly in December at age 55. His death was a reminder that life’s short and full of surprises. I believe we need to pull together as people in these trying times, not distance ourselves from each other using impersonal electronic devices to communicate.
Call someone today and make a plan to meet—for coffee, a hike in the woods, a tasty cocktail, or a beach outing. Leave your iPhone at home and enjoy some old-fashioned face time. It’s good for your soul.