When real life just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Of course, that’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek. What I mean is that so much of our time is spent on increasingly demanding information flows from social networks, RSS feeds, and just the web in general, that it becomes hard to pull yourself away from the screen sometimes. I know that personally, on any given day, I can spend up to 12-14 hours “online”. I put that in quotes because I do all my work on the computer, as well as engage in social meanderings, and whatever else grabs my attention that particular day. I’ve started making a concerted effort just to read actual, paper books, because if I get a Kindle or something similar, my eyes will positively melt out of their sockets from electron overload.

It’s definitely harder in the winter months, when the outdoors might as well have a big “Don’t Bother” sign hanging in space. I am a warm-weather person, and as such, have trouble functioning in the cold. In the summer, I’m very active – surfing, bike riding, just walks in general – but in the winter, I might as well have chains made of lazy wrapped around my ankles. So I drown myself in information. And it’s hard to staunch the bleeding once it starts.

What’s really crazy is that your reality, however departed from actual real life it is, becomes the life you live online. And when you start to extrapolate that in a massively geeky way, you realize that you’re actually living in the Matrix, and you sort of don’t really care. Sure, you can’t taste Twitter, but with the amount of time you spend there, it’s got to be leaving some kind of taste in your mouth. And blogs that post the equivalent of gadget crack for someone like me, multiple times a day, are slowly paring away layers of my brain that used to be designated for creative pursuits like art and music, let alone conversation and human interaction. I can’t help myself. I love information. It’s an undying need to satiate my constant curiosity about what’s coming next. But it hurts sometimes. It’s a sickness, albeit a controllable, self-inflicted, psychological one.

I recently went to Aruba for a few days and purposely made an effort to detach the mechanical tentacles of my everyday world. I yanked that data stream right out of the back of my skull, but only after I managed to stick together a connection between my Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh Wi-Fi and my iPhone, you know, just in case, since I didn’t have consistent data on the phone. But immediately following that, I began engaging in “life” again. Talking to people – in person(!), snorkeling, walking on the beach, you know, stuff humans do. I found that I was still good at doing these things, and that I actually enjoyed being away from circuitry for a while. I started to ponder exactly what kind of horror I had wrought upon myself by choosing a career in tech, since I can’t exactly turn my back on it. But I realized that all I really need is balance. It’s so simple, but so true. I need to say “No, thank you, Internet. I need some time to myself” occasionally. And that just has to be ok. I seriously doubt I’ll look back when I’m old and wish I posted more stupid things to TwitPic, but I’ll probably wish I spent more time with the people I loved.

Now if you’ll excuse me, while I was writing, 132 tweets, 23 Digg articles, 19 RSS posts, and a few Facebook status updates came in, and need my immediate attention.


Author: Seth Clifford

I'm here for the open bar.