James Sturm, the cartoonist, continues to post about his experience going cold turkey from the Internet. (He writes up his accounts and has someone else send them in to Slate for publication.) “Cutting myself off from the Internet hasn’t been easy,” he confesses in his latest missive from the offline world. “The Web had burrowed deeper into my domestic life than I’d realized.” But his isolation from the Net’s realtime stream of distractions has brought a burst of creativity and productivity:
One benefit of being offline so far is that I am drawing a lot more than I was before. I knew committing to do this column would force me to produce, but I am heartened by how seamlessly my time spent connected to the Internet has become time spent drawing. In the last two weeks, I’ve already filled up a 40-page 4″x6″ photo album (I purchase these in 99-cent stores) with watercolor paintings. This work seems to foster patience (I literally have to wait for the paint to dry), whereas on the Web, I was a hyperactive child with zero attention span.
There’s been much written about how the Web provides new opportunities for people to express themselves. That’s true, and welcome. But the Web is also an enormous global timesink, sucking up massive amounts of time that might have gone into more productive, thoughtful, and fulfilling activities. It’s difficult to measure the cost of this wasted time, because it’s impossible to know what people might have done if they weren’t surfing and tweeting and youtubing and huluing and foursquaring and emailing and IMing and googling and etc. The Web often gives us the illusion of having an incredibly diverse set of pursuits when it’s really narrowing the scope of our thoughts and activities. There is still a whole lot more that people can do offline than online – something that’s easy to forget as we peer into our screens all day.
James Sturm’s experience should give us all pause. What might we be accomplishing if we weren’t tethered to the Net?