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April 08, 2010

Has it begun?

James Sturm, the cartoonist, can't take it anymore, "it" being the Internet:

Over the last several years, the Internet has evolved from being a distraction to something that feels more sinister. Even when I am away from the computer I am aware that I AM AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER and am scheming about how to GET BACK ON THE COMPUTER. I've tried various strategies to limit my time online: leaving my laptop at my studio when I go home, leaving it at home when I go to my studio, a Saturday moratorium on usage. But nothing has worked for long. More and more hours of my life evaporate in front of YouTube ... Essential online communication has given way to hours of compulsive e-mail checking and Web surfing. The Internet has made me a slave to my vanity: I monitor the Amazon ranking of my books on an hourly basis, and I'm constantly searching for comments and discussions about my work.

He's not quite ready to divorce the web. But he's decided on a four-month trial separation. Like Edan Lepucki, he's having someone visit his online accounts and change all his passwords, just to be safe.

I know there's no going back to the pre-Internet days, but I just want to move forward a little more slowly.

Disconnection is the new counterculture.

UPDATE: There's an amusing exchange in the comments to Sturm's article at Slate:



> Disconnection is the new counterculture.

Pretty much. When people worked in fields, the high-status action was to have skin untouched by sun. When that changed to mostly working in buildings, the high-status action is to have a suntan.

When Internet access was a restricted part of intellectual jobs, being connected was a high-status action. As it becomes common, being disconnected shows you have the high-status freedom to be away from job demands.

There's nothing new under the, err, sun.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at April 9, 2010 12:30 AM

Your getting old. ;)

I don´t hear my kids complaining for them Internet is just life.

Posted by: Mats Lindholm at April 9, 2010 02:39 AM

"Disconnection is the new counterculture."

Yes, eventually. Read Eric Brende's book "Better Off" for a great example. (Super clever title, too.)


Posted by: Kevin Kelly at April 9, 2010 02:44 AM

"I don´t hear my kids complaining for them Internet is just life."

If you bring a child up in prison, he'll think prison is just life. Until he gets old enough to have a mind of his one.

That's why you should seek wisdom from an old guy like me, not from your kids.


Posted by: Nick Carr at April 9, 2010 09:09 AM

Checking your books' rankings every hour is not healthy. In _Wisdom 2.0_, Soren Gordhamer suggests some less extreme coping strategies that Sturm may not have tried.

Posted by: Jeff Hershberger at April 9, 2010 12:52 PM

"Checking your books' rankings every hour is not healthy."

No wonder I feel ill.

Posted by: Nick Carr at April 9, 2010 01:38 PM

Remember how in "Batman Forever", the Riddler perfects a TV device for draining information from all the brains in Gotham...
seems to me that is the Internet in a nutshell.

Posted by: dougiedd at April 9, 2010 08:48 PM

I'm sorry, but just reading this?
The internet is not the problem.
Mr. Sturm is the problem.
The internet is enabling his habits and addictions, perhaps. Anyone who spends hours on Youtube instead of working is lacking discipline.
As mentioned, checking your book ratings every hour is not healthy. It's obsessive, and he should see a professional for some help.

The need to search out every last comment about him is also obsessive, and clearly unhealthy - possibly paranoid.

These are all disordered behaviours. But rather than accept ownership of them, he is choosing to blame the medium, rather than change his behaviours.

Sure, cutting yourself off will prevent most of those behaviours... assuming he doesn't replicate them offline in some way (TV = Youtube)

But it won't fix anything. Once he goes back, the same obsessive thoughts will still be there, ready to go.

Going offline is not "counterculture", and it is especially not counterculture for the reasons he is doing it.

Trying to break an addiction by avoiding the target of the addiction isn't any kind of culture. Under your rationale, everyone in AA who stays on the wagon is "counterculture".

Er. No.

Posted by: Palmer-kun at April 11, 2010 01:04 AM

We all have the great disconnect in our future...

Posted by: Tom Foremski at April 11, 2010 12:46 PM

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