Sunday, November 04, 2007

Internet Killed the Papyrus Star

The Buggles will pardon my reference to their 1981 music video, "Video Killed the Radio Star," which was the first video to air on MTV.

Above is a picture of my kid circa December 2003. She was in kindergarten. We thought it was great that she liked the computer, so I set up my old laptop for her, and she played with it until she killed it.

Fast-forward 4 years later, and I am in one room on this computer. She is in another room on another computer. She has been there since she woke up. And if we do not kick her off, she will be there until she goes to bed.

This is a problem.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Perhaps it started with Dr. Rob Potter's blog post about wasting time online. Perhaps it started with my own self-realization that I sink way too much time into this box.

My parents did a great job preparing me for the information society. I had an IBM PC Jr. at a very young age. Some day I'll hunt down a photograph of my old computer.

At any rate, my little PC Jr. prepared me for this world. It certainly prepared me for Annie Lang's lab at Indiana. Navigating DOS? No problem. I'd been doing it since I was 10.

I used to program in Basic. In the house in which I grew up, there was a large party room on the third floor, and there was a full kitchen / bar. For some reason I was fascinated with playing bar. But I didn't have any drinks to mix. So I wrote a program in Basic that tuned my PC into a cash register. You could order drinks, and it would figure out the total. I loved it.

I also love cash registers, but that's a story for another day.

At any rate, I could use the computer to do stuff. And along the way, I probably learned something about logic and all of that. But what I could not do was waste endless hours on the thing reading about the Alabama-LSU football game in both the Tuscaloosa paper and the Baton Rouge paper, as I did this morning.

When I started college in 1991, the Internet was still not ready for prime time. So I did my homework on the computer. I wrote papers on the computer. But that was about it. No matter how much time it took, the computer was not some magnet that seemed to be sucking my life away.

We fooled around with Compuserve in 1993 and 1994, but not much was going on there. It was not until I arrived as editor of New Mexico State's student newspaper in May 1995 that I had my first high-speed access. And by that time, there were enough Web sites to make it worth my while.

Still, even by then, it did not consume me. There was too much work to do. Homework. My column. Everything.

Somewhere along the way, that changed. The Internet became an addiction. And I don't throw that word around lightly. Much to the (perhaps) joy of Texas Tech doctoral student Wendy Maxian, who is interested in these things, I get the DTs when I am away from the Internet.

Seriously. If freaks me out. This summer, we were staying with my wife's family, and it was not really easy for me to get on the Internet. I felt horrible. I might as well have been sleeping in some gutter covered in newspaper wishing I had $5 and a glass pipe.

The same thing happened two weeks ago during our reunion at NMSU. I'm a college football junkie, and I hated being away from the scores. I was having the time of my life, but I kept wondering about the Tennessee/Alabama score. And the Indiana score. And the K-State score.

This morning, I woke up two hours ago. I emptied the dishwasher. And then I poured a cup of coffee -- and other than 5 minutes to eat a bowl of Cracklin' Oat Bran -- here I've been for two hours.

I toured the country of college football. It was fun to read about Nebraska's free fall in the Lincoln newspaper. Then I checked my regular litany of blogs. Then I checked some other sites. Then I read Advertising Age's small agency blog.

Which led me to Bart Cleveland's post titled, "Memory Almost Full ... of Junk."

I think you can see where this is going.
"But checking out your fantasy football site when you should be looking for inspiration to write an ad for a woman's perfume is self-delusion. How in the world can anyone pay attention to the task at hand if they are compelled to check their email, I.M. and favorite sites every few minutes? My kids say they can do it, but then when I see their report cards, they tell a different story. Old or young, we cannot be distracted and do another task well," Cleveland wrote.
He's right. Dr. Potter was right. The tool has become the master for too many of us.

Science fiction writers love to hatch plots about how computers take over the world. While we're busy dismissing this as foolish since we don't see any lasers flying, perhaps the computers already have won.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home