This week we delved a little deeper into e-lit with Christine Wilks’ piece “Underbelly“. I must admit that this is the first piece of e-lit I have ever seen that I wanted to spend hours playing with. It is a … Continue reading
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.
Facebook has become an unsafe space for me in the course of the last few months… I used to love logging onto my site and seeing pictures of my far-flung friends and family members and catching up with their lives, however briefly. I have an uncle that has lived within 15 miles of me for most of my life, and he recently moved with his wife to the D.C. area. To say I miss him is an understatement of epic proportions. Facebook has been one of the easiest ways for us to keep in touch, because neither of us always has the time for a phone call (not to mention the time difference). So what exactly has changed my opinion, you ask?
The simple answer is politics, though of course that isn’t the whole problem.
Before the recent Presidential election, people were fairly polite on Facebook. They trolled each others pages and left the occasional comment. They wrote happy greetings and posted pictures of their smiling children and grandchildren. There are still a few people that do this, and I cherish even the pictures of drunken stupidity because at least there is fun being had. Now, most of what I see when I log onto Facebook are inaccurate memes with Obama as the villain and rants about gun control (either for or against). The deep cultural divide in our country is played out every day in the very place I used to go to escape from such ridiculousness.
I have a former boss who once posed the question, “Isn’t Facebook like a cocktail party? Politics and religion are faux pas.” At the time I naively disagreed. I didn’t understand why adults couldn’t politely discuss their beliefs in a public forum. I have since learned that these topics are not fodder for polite discussion. There are of course, those in the minority who are capable of having an adult discussion, but it seems like so many others are unable to reign in their passion long enough to even hear the opinions of others.
And we wonder why our leaders have such a hard time agreeing on anything?
I still haven’t figured out whether it is better to just avoid Facebook altogether, or to delete those that can’t just shut up (to put it bluntly). Until I decide what the answer is, you can find me on Facebook posting pictures of my beautiful kids and showering others with happy, upbeat comments. I choose to be the peace and harmony I wish to see, but so often don’t.