This article first appeared over at Write Anything.
Sod it… I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge or shy away from controversy.
Previously to this another writer – Jodi wrote about the benefits of being internet or technology free, citing an exercise which Julia Camera gives participants in The Artists Way. Jodi then left readers to answer if the Internet was friend or foe – to which a number of comments spoke of the cleansing nature of being technology free.
I wave the flag in defense of the internet and of all the technology I am blessed to have seen develop since I was a child. Absolutely – how nice is it to go camping or trekking out into the wilderness and leave all the trappings of modern day life behind for a little while. I am the first to indulge in that – but there’s no way I’ll bad mouth it nor turn my back on it.
Are you kidding? The internet is one of the best inventions EVER! It has made an enormous impact on the daily lives of people throughout the works, changing the way we communicate, learn and play. It allows us to give and receive information in seconds rather than days or weeks and serves as an incredible tool for collaborative work.
Yes, you can get sucked into dumb sites and spent hours ( weeks, months) on games with people all round the globe whom you would not normally spend anytime with if you’d met them face to face. To be fair though, I spent a huge amount of my Uni life squirrelled away either drinking to excess or playing D & D with people I would not normally have associated with… so personally see no difference here, other than the fact that when gaming now, I don’t need to drive to some dodgy flop house and be offered an interesting array of drugs by people I’ve only just met and be fearful that the cops will roll up and bust us all.
As far as being able to contact people from all round the globe – incredible – I feel more in touch with people and family than ever. Having lived OS for 5 years in the dark ages (i.e just as the internet started to gather speed, where I had a hotmail address and no-one else I knew did.) how I WISH there had been blogs and email! Oh the joy of posting up photos, a journal, investigating interesting spots to explore. Instead, my family got postcards every week and the fortnightly speedy phone call that cost a days wage and research on where to go was done in the library or from word of mouth. I recall weeks when we either backpacked around or went motorcycling, my family would be frantic I’d been abducted or lying in a foreign hospital. I lost touch with good friends whilst away – estranged from their lives as they married, had children, went through life changes I could not be part of or even hear about till years later. When we arrived back in Australia, I felt disconnected from everyone and everything. Even though I had written and kept monthly newsletters sent to over 40 people – I only ever got xmas cards back with a cursory line about how the year had flown. Like it or not, it is just the nature of written communication in our society. Where was Facebook when I needed it??
Granted that Twitter and Facebook – and other social networking tools can become trivial and overload your inbox with day to day updates involving what you are making for dinner, hating doing the washing or a childs temper tantrum, it can also be a tap into someones real time and intimate thoughts – allowing a deeper understanding and appreciation of that individual. On a side note, I do think the guy who twittered his every thoughts whilst he was standing at the alter needed a good slap..( especially by his bride who was standing there watching)
Studying for my first degree was wasted in ancient libraries with outdated resources ( my Uni was not very financial – nor did it spent a great deal of money on the liberal arts section of books) Studying for my masters was just as bad – trekking across London after work, hunting down resources was a trial to say the least. How easy do students have it now days? Not to mention writers – resources, tips, hints and assistance at the tips of thier fingers; its almost criminal. We have access to professional libraries, up to date research data, forums and information on obscure topics, giving us less excuse for not having material to write with.
Need a map from an ancient European town? Want to find out more about a cathedral in a Spanish city? Need to know the exact dimensions and history of a pigeons coop? I give you – the internet…..
Julia Cameron talks about words (which many can translate into the internet obsession) as being a tranquilliser. I can think of a much more destructive, influential force melding the minds of generations… the TV…..(I don’t think I have the space to start my tirade on the evils of television… .I lived for nearly 8 years without a TV and 5 years since getting a telly, still find it hard to remember to turn it on, so entrenched is my distrust.) I would much prefer to see my children researching and looking on the internet than slumped in front of the box.
Similarly with any type of obsessive past time, if you have compulsive tendencies ( I firmly put my hand up here) anything can become unhealthy. Julia talks about filling ones creative well up and intimates that the tranquillisers we utilise saps this resource. There have been a myriad of things I have found on the internet which has done more than fill my creative well. I have found wonderful friends and colleagues, a peer group willing to give me a kick at any time of the day or night, stories, photos and images that both chill and invigorate the soul. It goes without saying that a balance is required with every pursuit. Obviously too, there needs to be guidelines with the usage for younger children and appropriate privacy and security measures made.
Still not convinced? You have an incredible ability – its called the ‘off’ button. Put your hands on your desk and push away from it and stand. Walk to the window or out the door – the world lays out there. Experience, breathe and fill up in the natural world. Live the balance; make sense of what you have seen and felt. Then come back and twitter, FB , blog and write about it. Like it or not, the internet is here to stay. Its up to us to be vigilant with our usage and the impact we choose to let it have upon our families.
So – do you have what it takes to turn off the button and allow a balance?
Image via Flickr