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Living 24×7 online and none the richer

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Woke up from sleep at around 3am the other day. As if on auto pilot mode, I reached out for the mobile phone, checked time and clicked on the ‘new messages’ link. And what, pray, were the new messages waiting for me to see? An email from mediabistro, a daily news alert from Reuters, assorted promotional messages and spam. All very earth shatteringly important and urgent.

Such ‘trivialization of time’ has become the norm in my life. The frequent checks on Twitter & Facebook, the huddled posture to check emails – it’ all too familiar now. But let me get this straight – I am not in the upper echelons of business, the league of the Fat Cat CEO’s. I may have the common place issues at work but nowhere in the league of jet setting, globe-trotting CEO’s who oversee millions of dollars of business. My job doesn’t require me to liaise with people across continents and be available 24×7. My work related stuff is regular stuff. Yet, my ‘webatitis’ ailment has only got worse. Sure, it is hugely convenient and has it’s benefits. But is it all taking more than giving?

It’s not just about Internet Addiction or ADHD. It’s about the triumph of the vacuous over the enriching. Due to a combination of other factors and webatitis, my reading habits have all but gone. I haven’t read a good book in a while. There was a time when I used to read The Economist cover to cover. Now, the subscription copies lie unopened. And it’s not the kind of magazine that can be read while watching TV, sending tweets and checking mail at the same time. But reading stuff like ‘I just had a vada paav‘ can be done while watching TV, checking mail and having a hair cut. Therein lies the rub. The latter is addictive and becomes the norm. And thanks to the habit of pithy status updates and 140-character limits, I seem to imbibe things only if they are byte sized. The result: focus on the superficial, skimming the surface rather than digging deep. I may recall the name Kobad Ghandy thanks to some tweet or skimming through the headlines but I will be at a loss to say anything more about him. I am sure there are people out there who kinda grew up with ‘old media’ and still managed to stave off the onslaught of the trivial. Pray tell me how?

Gotta go. A friend of mine has just spotted a mongoose in his garden. It says so on his FB status update.

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9 Comments

  1. This is an incredibly honest and raw post. I make no effort to conceal I’m an information junkie and can do 18 hour shifts of pure RSS heaven but I don’t mind sharing that when my computer was stolen a couple of months ago I was forced to just do the minimum (or maximum depending on how you look at it) and then got on with what I used to do. Read read read read but on printed paper.

    As a boy not much interested in what the teachers had to say, if I had a great book I’d take it to all my lessons and read it under the desk while ostensibly participating in the lesson. I don’t think much has changed.

    On the plus side of having my attention shredded by gigabytes of information per day I can honestly say that the sheer volume of information has increased my awareness and understanding of how thing tick more than I could have ever hoped for. Put another way I think my IQ has increased measurably over the last two years.

    This is probably the foundation for a post on this topic so I may come back to it but I don’t think you need to be too hard on yourself because the reality is we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us in the future if we coolly analyse the problems we face including an economic hologram we’re living in. There’s going to be plenty of chances to get our noses to the grindstone in the future without being diverted by what I invariably now avoid which is meaningless updates and I’m also a little weary of gratuitous sharing. Or rather I may start weeding out the stuff that isn’t brilliant enough.

    Come to think about it I might do a three strikes and they’re out rule for gratuitous sharing but then I’m just as guilty of twittering the banal as anyone.

    Lastly I used to know what 10 people were up to at any one point but now I know what a few hundred are and it makes me happy that somebody is going nuts over Galliano shoes in New York or somebody has set fire to their mongoose 😉

    Great post and if it weren’t for this incredibly addictive medium I’d have less of an idea what India stands for by not reading your thoughts.

    • Charles, loved reading your response. Agree with you totally that gigabytes of information available can be hugely beneficial. But the stuff that is insightful and he enriching is perhaps overshadowed by the trivial. Years ago, I remember reading fiction that was unputdownable. OK, it was only Carl Hiassen’s novels (!) and stuff like Maximum City. but I looked forward to every chapter. I don’t get the same joy on the net. Stuff like Atlantic Monthly and New Yorker are great reads on the internet but the distractions seem to take more of my time.

  2. Newly enabled on my superfast Reliance wireless and my Snow Leoparded mac I thought it only appropriate that this be the first place I visit, the first post I read and the first time I agree with something you say about life on the internet.
    As far as I’m concerned the net is a great way to stay in touch with people who MATTER and get information/updates on things/subjects that MATTER to your personal/professional life. That’s it.
    I do not want to know whose garden has been invaded by a mongoose. And I do not want to be friends with Boobles Bumbleberry – whoever he is.
    And, Lucky, it IS taking more than it is giving. And what it is taking is far more precious than time. It is taking away solitude and that wonderful silence that let’s you commune with yourself. Most of us fear it – unfortunately. Try it sometime.
    Disconnect with virtual reality. And connect with the reality – inside. You will like yourself a lot more. End of lec.
    Cheers.

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