I’ve come to the conclusion that the internet is an unnecessary evil. Unnecessary because we can certainly live without it (people did at one time you know). Evil because it wastes so much of our time and encourages us to be exposed to so much data without absorbing it. Because we rarely retain the data we acquire from the internet, we’re doomed to return to it time after time as if it’s a surrogate memory.
None of this is to say the internet isn’t useful. I wouldn’t want to do without it entirely. It’s a great tool for acquiring information, being entertained, and communicating with others. But my own experience with the internet is that there’s too much information. News at all levels comes at us unfiltered and in unceasing streams.
My email inbox is stuffed with alerts, newsletters, ads and spam. I get a little thrill when I see a personal email from someone who’s writing to me and has actually met me in real life.
My browsers have 40 or 50 tabs open at all times because there’s something on them that I don’t want to forget but I don’t want to get into right then and there. And yes, I do use bookmarks but those are like charging cables for things you no longer have. You accumulate loads of them in a box because some day you may need one. Then ten years later you end up putting them out at a yard sale with a sign that says “free”. Or you just throw them away.
I’ll fully admit that this is all my fault. The internet doesn’t jump out at me, grab me by the throat and force me to search it. Although, I once had Opera open unexpectedly! Individuals have to be adults about their internet use. We have to exercise self-control and discipline with our behavior.
The tools we use to search have become so commoditized, so focused on selling and so determined to grab our attention. It’s hard to concentrate on a single search thread without unwittingly being drawn aside.
And then there are the sites themselves. There are too many information channels all vying for our attention. Between Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and blogs, I’m constantly checking the state of this or that. Almost every time I look at a browser I’m invited down rabbit trails to some previously unneeded site.
I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe I just need to try harder to control my actions. I should certainly look at the tools I’m using. I used to think tabs were great but now am considering turning off tabbed browsing.
I need to purge my email address from as many lists as possible. And I wish there was a way to put in a search term and only get one million results instead of twenty million. I mean, there’s only so much I can sort through. But seriously, I would love to only get five results and have them be exactly what I need. If my field of view is narrowed, perhaps I’ll wander less.