Oohh, Pretty Ribbon! (And Other Ways the Web Makes Us Woozy)

And these are just for ordering lunch

One morning this past week, I had a writing project open on my screen, while looking at a Twitter stream, and also listening (well, my ears took in noise) to a webinar, which was going to end on the hour, and be followed by another webinar. Oh, the humanity! Now the webinar material wasn’t just mindless prattle; it was sound information on building a bigger blogging audience, and the one that followed also offered insightful information on revising a novel. And I’d seen some great tweeted links to intriguing topical news and the amusing oddments of humanity in the tweeted flow.

But the whole of it, the tapestry of electronic screeching tires, colored balloons, half-cooked flotsam—I sensed that the inner nutrient levels were low. Trying to look more than two tweets ahead, I know this is unsustainable behavior, on a spiritual as well as logical level.

But just to add to the feeling of this cascade described above—the “is that a mouse running up my leg before I’m going to make an important speech while someone in the audience is having electroshock administered”—while I was webinaring and tweeting and reading and wobbling, I opened this email from Jonathan Fields. His post squints at this collected connectivity, and the accompanying potential of disconnect that can come from it.

The Sunday Picnic Basket of the Web

The Net indeed can seem like the largest Sunday picnic basket of all, with juicy treats shared among smiling friends and extended family, and perhaps I’m biting the keyboard that feeds me by saying “no mas, no mas,” but sheesh, I’m concerned that I’m turning into one of those mice that hits the lever to drop the cocaine, and the lever taps are happening more frequently.

There have been a few recently published studies that suggest (as Fields alludes to) that our heavy use of the Internet and its popcornings of this and now this, but this too! is reshaping our abilities to have deep, concentrated focus on a subject—indeed attenuating our abilities to focus at all.

Computer Narcosis, Internet Brain and Gosh, Where Did the Time Go?

As I commented on the Fields piece, I also fear potential neurological re-shapings, that perhaps will suppress the ability to absorb in any reflective way long-form information, in favor of the slot-machine, bells-lit flavor-packs of brain candy we can access all day long now. Undoubtedly some brains are more susceptible to this than others. Since I’ve peppered mine with enough bourbon so it has more divots than most public golf courses, I might have to be more wary than most. (And our War of Warcraft army recruits might be lost already, but we’ll need them to man the expanding air force of drones that will soon be used to both kill terrorists and to perhaps shoot the fingers off of people texting while driving.)

Me, after musing on the Fields post (at the very moment I was being buffeted by the cluster bombs of divided electronic attentions), I vowed to no longer do these data-crams. It might be the bourbon that’s trenched my memory, but it feels like I’m getting so little retained value anyway from all the podcasts, webinars, PDFs and tweets that concurrently flood my bloodshot eyeballs.

When I ask, does all this stuff, despite its twinkly appeal, make me any happier? Smarter? Better?


The Net and its wonders have been an immeasurable boon to my work, but that horrible sucking sound of my soul draining away has to be listened to as well. Of course I’m still going to be there typing away, but not while opening the curtains on all sides to every passing circus. One thing at a time. Breathe. Balance. (And maybe just a bit more coffee.)

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4 thoughts on “Oohh, Pretty Ribbon! (And Other Ways the Web Makes Us Woozy)

  1. “One thing at a time.”

    So wise, that. Although… I’ll have to thumb-wrestle you for the win if you try to persuade me that eating quality dark chocolate (72% cacao, mind you) while leaving a comment (with sticky fingers) on your blog is a form of multitasking.

    But yes, I too have been making an extra effort to keep my sticky fingers in one Internet pie at a time.

    A thought-provoking post, my friend!

  2. Ahh, Dr. Dennison, a chocolate comment, the flavor I like best. Acchh, I have so gotten into the unrewarding habit of clicking that movie, watching a minute of it, and clicking to that blog, reading a minute of it—ghastly practice, and of no use to anyone who hopes to take a measured, thoughtful approach to doing anything. Stop, I must.

  3. Tom, I understand the pull of Everything but when I started writing, I discovered the strangest thing:

    Focus is just as addictive as information overload.

    Try it. You’ll see what I mean. Avoid the middle ground, though. Both ends of the spectrum are potentially addicting. It’s the middle ground that is, as the kids say these days, “meh.” It won’t change anything for you.

    (And you can have your massive picnic basket. But only at a different time than you’re focussing).

  4. Rick, I absolutely agree that when the focus happens, it’s an enveloping (and almost timeless) state of wonderfulness. I am worried that I am chipping away at being able to easily slip into that state, or putting more electronic geegaw barriers between me and that flow.

    But yes, all things in their time, whether cake or character building. (And not too much Twitter time, ever.)

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