Parents are repeatedly advised these days to make sure their children are not becoming addicted to the internet, unable to tear themselves away to get healthy exercise and face-to-face conversation with real people. Another problem is the “sound-bite” approach to learning, which limits children’s ability to learn to follow complex arguments through to the finish. The temptation is to read the headlines and think you know the whole story.
I agree this is critically important for children. But what I’m discovering for myself is that it’s critically important for us retirees whose computer skills make us subject to the same temptations as our grandchildren.
The One Spy.com
I’m not preparing lectures anymore, not grading student papers, not driving off to work, not writing academic articles, or examining research findings to determine how well they do or don’t stand up to their headline conclusions. Nonetheless I find myself fascinated by the world, and the internet provides a store of information the like of which has never been available to us before.
But there’s so much to know, and so much that seems critically important, so much that it seems to me a responsible, educated person ought to be aware of.
And there’s the catch.
It simply is not possible for a single individual to examine every important issue in depth.
And so I have discovered that I’m capable of spending literally (and I do mean literally) hours a day running around reading a headline here, a two-line summary there, a forgotten promise to read something else in depth, a blog paragraph or two there. As a result, I’m also not getting the regular exercise I need to maintain my energy levels.
But I’m not really getting better informed either. I fear that in my own left-wing-ish kind of way, I’m joining the masses who make up their minds without examination and use headlines simply to confirm their own prejudices. When I hear people say things like “I don’t believe in global warming” or “Nothing the Republicans say these days is reliable” I want to scream. But I’m beginning to fear I have my own versions of unsubstantiated convictions that deserve more examination.
Since I don’t have the mental ability or time to be fully-informed about every issue I know is important – maybe even critical – I have been concentrating on finding another way.
First of all, more than ever it’s necessary for me to remember that I am not all-knowing and infallible. I obviously make assessment and decisions and try to live by my values. But I need to remember that I might be wrong. Even very wrong. On things that are little. But also about things that might be very big.
Secondly, on days when we’re not out entertaining ourselves or we don’t have guests, I am limiting my computer time to a hour at a time. Then I get up and do something else for at least a half hour, and preferably for an hour. Sometimes I go for a walk, do some cooking or cleaning, shopping, gardening, maintenance work, have a real live conversation, read, listen to music, do my daily exercise stint, watch tv.
Yes, I know. It sounds like a hum drum list. But it really works for me. I’m much less tired, more productive both at the computer and in everything else. I’m even feeling younger.
I love the internet. And I love working at my computer. But I’m not going to let it steal my life.