Internet Killed the Graduate School Star

Saturday, December 4, 2010 | 0 Comment(s)

this post is for Kris Kross.  I may jump around.  enjoy.

I am, like so many, addicted to the internet.  Signs that you too may be addicted to the internet? Staring at your computer doing nothing until you realize you've been doing it for an hour +.  That's a good hint.  Not being able to get any work done at a location with wifi.  Clincher. 

I have friends who have two different types of study locals.  1) where they can socialize, do some work, and get their internet needs met. 2) those places that, no matter how much they beg borrow or try to steal, they cannot get on the web.  These places force them to look at computer as the impotent web-less word processor it was originally invented as.

I don't have this second place yet.  But i now fully realize its necessity.  With twitter, my blog, 2 email accounts (3 really), facebook, and the seasonal fantasy baseball, we now have the ability to live our lives online.  And while i hate those "i don't have a TV" people as much as the next, this online life can be seriously problematic.  Because we've "evolved" to the point where it takes actual effort to unplug from our virtual selves. 

And i can't help but thinking that if IM having this much trouble with dis-connectivity, how much harder it must be for those college and high school kids--where knowing "where you stand" within your community seems unbelievably important.  And, additionally, im so friggin thankful to not be 14 at a time when you can be so easily publicly mocked (so glad to not have to deal with the facebook update, "OMG! did you see @mattitiyahu's zit minefield today in Algebra.  L is for not being that kids friend).  Shiver.

And now, looking at old pictures in Sports Illustrated, what strikes me is not the sportsperson being highlighted, but that everyone in the stands is watching him/her.  Nowadays, when so in so is elevating for a monster jam, 25% of the people in the stands are staring straight down at their phones.  People miss experiencing things live, in order to be the first person to share the event they just overlooked with all of there friends. 

When i was little, my parents would tell me about getting their family's first TV.  Black and white.  3 channels.  And I would make jokes about how the dinosaurs must have been geeked for the new entertainment, and simultaneously i was thinking about what inventions that i didn't have as a kid would be ubiquitous (though i didn't know that word yet) when i grew up.  The answer has to be two-fold:  Cell-phones and the internet.  I am not yet convinced, however, that either has totally enriched our lives. 

I can make a strong case for the internet as positive.  It's changed keeping in touch with people, music, shopping, and making travel plans (but not traveling) both easier and less expensive.  The only costs thus far have been our privacy, our free time, and sometimes our integrity (ahem . . . 2 girls 1 cup  . . . cough cough).

Cell phones might be all bad (fyi. i have a iPhone and use it--so file this all under intellectual hypocrisy).  They have extended the reach of the internet to our all the time.  They have made being distracted a constant.  They have made being rude to our fellow humans a daily occurrence.  While i simultaneously can't remember how my friends and i used to meet up in New York City pre-cell phones (were we actually where we were supposed to be on time all the time?), I lament the time when my life couldn't (COULDN'T) be interrupted by almost anyone at almost any time.  We got call waiting, and used it to prevent ourselves from talking to people we didn't have time for (telemarketers specifically).  But then, everyone had call waiting, and not picking up the phone became a subtle sign of disrespect.  I used to make fun of my father who didn't want an answering machine because he didn't want the responsibility for getting back in touch with all of those people who wanted a slice of his time.  It is only now, 20 years later, that i realize he had glimpsed the future.  He saw the demise of personal time's writing on the wall, and trying to fight back.  First came the answering machine.  Then the car phone.  Then cell phones with voice mail.  Now, we seem at the mercy of constant requests for our attention--as if all required the same urgency.

I'm not sure where to go from here.  Going backwards in time has never proven a successful strategy, so i'm looking to adapt.  I guess i have to make a decision based on who i am.  What i mean is, a part of me is in this blog, which is on the internet.  And a part of me is in my facebook, my twitter, my iPhone.  The important thing to figure out is . . . how much.  What percent am i the me that you meet in person, and what percent am i my online persona.  I guess what i'm saying is, i think i need to change my levels.  That is, if i ever want out of graduate school.

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