Armchair Peregrinations


November 12, 1998

Sometimes I try to remember what it was like in the days before the Internet and the World Wide Web. It seems as if it's been a long time, although I've only been online for 2 1/2 years. Instead of coming home and lying down to read a book or magazine, I first turn on the computer and check e-mail and news sites. Then I go to my bookmarks and check out other favorite sites and read journal entries. I come away not often enlightened, although I occasionally find articles that are useful or read journal entries that are emotionally moving and truly written from the heart. As one journaler wrote the other day, Writing has become my method of recuperation, replenishment, and I've become frighteningly dependant on it, whether it be e-mail-related, journal-related, or just plain non-related.

I do have my favorite journals which I usually check once a day, for these sites contain some of the freshest revelations and surprises, not to mention insights into the everyday, ordinary lives of some interesting and not-so-interesting people. It's still a novel experiment for me, this journal writing and reading. I'm getting to know a number of people through this medium, even if I'm not actually corresponding with them.

But overall, I'm frustrated in that I should know better than spend so much time in front of the computer. It's great to make new discoveries, but I'll ask the questions here again, as I have before in this joiurnal, "What am I learning? Am I accruing bytes of information in massive quanitites, or am I synthesizing all this into something coherent and meaningful? Is it just a way to spend time, a distraction or a diversion that keeps me from confronting life more directly? Why is this necessary? It's got to be more than just habit and routine.

According the the principles of "technorealism", a sobering manifesto that cautions against relying too much on information technology, INFORMATION IS NOT KNOWLEDGE. All around us, information is moving faster and becoming cheaper to acquire, and the benefits are manifest. That said, the proliferation of data is also a serious challenge, requiring new measures of human discipline and skepticism. We must not confuse the thrill of acquiring or distributing information quickly with the more daunting task of converting it into knowledge and wisdom. Regardless of how advanced our computers become, we should never use them as a substitute for our own basic cognitive skills of awareness, perception, reasoning and judgment. (Technorealism Overview)

Nevertheless, I persist in sitting at the computer, surfing and reading on the Web. But I don't want to forget how nice it is to lie on the bed and read with no machine humming in the background or cursor moving restlessly across a screen. I want to just listen to night sounds or calm down from the stresses of the day in a quiet room with classical music on the radio.

Sometimes I just wish there was no e-mail or Web, that I could be information deprived for awhile. No computer. Just books and magazines.

There's got to be some new middle ground. It's time to start backing off a j bit, gradually, going to what is useful, checking news, reading the New York Times in the morning with breakfast, finding some fun sites and then turning off the computer.


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