My brain is not wired for the way the world has become. I think that, at the age of 27, I can relate more to my parents' generation than my own. Consider the following:
• The success of Twitter baffles me.
• I feel I could benefit from having fewer friends on Facebook.
• I have more interest in scripted comedy or drama than "reality" TV.
• I didn't know who Lady Gaga was until about two weeks ago, and now that I do, I feel I've died a little.
Everything is linked, and the effect is that everything is completely disjointed. A quick glance online to check for rain tomorrow becomes a half-hour junket through videos and sexy photos and ads promising to enlarge some body parts and shrink others. I go to a news site to check the latest on the Balloon Boy fuss and I'm confronted by bright red links, mid-text, telling me to click to "check out the top 10 literary hoaxes!" or to "read about America's favorite types of balloons!" I start to follow the thread of reader responses to a news article, and after the fifth declaration that "your a idiot" I shudder and twitch.
When I finally pull myself away I feel mentally worn, unable to focus. And often I still don't know whether it'll rain tomorrow, or I've forgotten. All the connections have disconnected something in my brain.
Some people thrive on it. But I find myself wondering why someone wants his phone to tell him every time he gets an e-mail alerting him that a guy he kind of knew in high school commented on a photo of him on Facebook. I find myself closing my eyes during movie previews because they won't show the same image for more than a quarter of a second, and it's making me dizzy and cranky.
It's not that I hate or fear technology or the internet. I recognize that a world of value and utility exists among the dross. However, I worry that humanity's collective attention span has been shortened. I worry that my own attention span is suffering. A constant onslaught of novelty starts to feel like it's just an onslaught, and I worry that I'm spending my mental energy on drivel, leaving me unable to take in the wealth of genuine beauty and art and wonder that exists in the real world I live in.
So what's to be done? A complete withdrawal from the digital world? A return to the woods and commitment to write only in cuneiform on dried animal skins? Sounds fun, but I think the best solutions to this modern problem for me are old-fashioned ones: moderation and discretion.
I need to ask myself: Do I really need to watch the video of the sneaky cat again? Do I really need to take that quiz to find out which Ninja Turtle I am? Is this a better use of my time than going and playing outside in hopes of staving off a mental breakdown and adult-onset ADHD?
Sometimes the answer will be yes (equal parts Raphael and Donatello). Usually the answer will be no.
(I recognize of course that the rant against The-Way-Things-Have-Become became a cliché about the time Martin Luther finished hammering on the church door. You could Google "I hate Twitter" and I'm sure you'd get thousands of results. Self-important young would-be revolutionaries and am-being whiners have long written their screeds against whatever prevailing cultural trend or threat to their way of thought has threatened at the moment. I join their ranks, accepting with frustration that there is nothing new under the sun. And yes, I recognize the irony in saying all this internet-critical rambling on a blog.)