The one reccuring theme in Rheingold’s Net Smart that grabbed me was a simple thought: control digital media, do not let digital media control you. It sounds so easy to accomplish, and yet this is clearly a task of Herculean proportion, because so few do it well.
My husband and I, for example, are both incredibly adept at being alone together. He is an artist and is constantly drawing or uploading pictures of his paintings onto His blog or scanning DeviantArt for new art. I just started school for the first time in several years and am usually reading or blogging for a class or reading our class twitter feed. We can sit in the same room and even be touching but our attention is clearly not on each other. I can ask him a question about something and watch him finish scrolling through a page before the fact that I said anything even registers. We don’t have a bad relationship, just one that has clearly been touched by digital media in a way that is less positive than it could be. The one thing I will give both of us is that we try really hard to not let technology get in the way of being present with our kids. I only have a short amount of time to get things right with them, and I refuse to let technology get in the way of having a close relationship.
I won’t lie, I also get lost in the clutter of the internet. I can be checking my e-mail and get bored and pull up Pinterest and get lost for hours. I have thousands of pins and great intentions, but have only actually managed to try out one or two of the cleaning tips I have found. Pinterest adding a smartphone app only added to the madness that is my pinning habit, because I can look at it multiple times a day if I want. Twitter is one of the only social media sites that I have not found myself distracted by in some way. I have a hard time expressing myself in so few words, and am unimpressed with most of the noise that goes on. I had my first Twitter chat for my Writing for Contemporary Media class and I was bored and overloaded after about 5 minutes. My attention span is just not ready for all of the noise. I definitely got “easily distracted” written on my report card once or twice as a child…
So how does one win the battle with Digital Media (especially when said person is an English and Digital Humanities Major)? I am going to start by employing the most basic solutions Rheingold suggests. I think my first step will be to leave my phone at home the next time I go out for the day. It sounds scary, but also incredibly liberating to be able to walk away from the constant onslaught of e-mails and Facebook updates. When I was a teenager, people had to call and leave a message on my parent’s home phone if I was out (novel concept), and if I wanted to check my e-mail I actually had to consciously seek out a computer (though I can’t remember if I had an e-mail address or what it even was). The second step I am going to take is all my own. I am going to sit down and make folders in my e-mail for each of my classes, that way it doesn’t take me 20 minutes just to find the right e-mail with the right link in order to do my assignment. Less time searching equals less time spent in front of the computer screen, which is a plus when you want a life that takes place in the real world. The very last and probably most difficult task I will undertake is to attempt meditation like Rheingold suggests. Shutting my brain off is one of the hardest things for me to do, but I truly believe that if I can focus myself for even five minutes, it will help me so much.