Internet overload

I think it’s been about a month since I’ve written something about not being able to think of anything to write about. I set myself a totally arbitrary once a month limit, because stuff like this, it’s kind of boring, it’s totally unimaginative. But I think it’s necessary sometimes. In trying to write everyday, I feel myself going through cycles, patterns. I’ll have a couple of weeks where I’m feeling really strong about my writing, where I sit down and these blog posts and whatever else I’m writing just kind of write themselves. And then there’s the flipside of that coin, where each day is much more of a struggle, where I think that I’m just out of ideas, with nothing to write about. And it’s not a switch, it’s not like I’m on and then I’m off. There are all of the different in-betweens.

So then I’ll just get to the point where I’m like, all right, I might as well at least get some content out there, even if the only thing that I can say is that I have nothing to say. And I know everybody has to deal with this to some extent, but it still deserves mentioning. It’s really, really hard to get work done thanks to the Internet. It’s unbelievably difficult for me to try to focus on only Microsoft Word for however long it takes to write a whole piece without desperately wanting to click on my Internet browser every ten minutes or so. I guess I can’t just blame the Internet; there have always been distractions. TV, video games. I could always just take a nap.

But the Internet is unavoidable. It’s ever present. And it’s new. This is totally uncharted territory for our species. What are going to be some of the long term effects of how we deal with such constant access to unlimited quantities of always up to date information? I don’t want to just talk like my experiences are how it’s like for everybody else, but I do have experiences, and I know that I’m not totally alone in dealing with them.

It’s not just writing either. Take office work. After I graduated, I worked two office jobs for about eight months each. I literally didn’t do any work. And I’m not even trying to exaggerate. At both jobs I spent at least ninety percent of my time sitting at a desk surfing the Internet. If the phone rang, I answered it. Maybe I’d have like twenty minutes of data entry to complete on some spreadsheet. I was constantly haunted by thoughts like, man, somebody’s going to fire me. Somebody’s going to come up to me one day and say, Rob, what do you actually do here? What do you provide to the company? Why are we paying you?

But nobody ever did. And so I’d go to work and look at web sites. And then I’d go home and watch TV. And it took me forever to even identify what I was feeling going through that existence. And people have to be better at it I am. They have to be out there. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a functioning economy. But I couldn’t do it. It’s hard enough trying to write, something that I really like doing, without getting sucked into the Internet. It’s almost impossible for me not to give into temptation if my alternative is something that I despise.

The thing about the Internet is that you can’t escape. It’s like, if I have a party sized bag of Twix in my house, I’m going to gradually eat every single candy bar over the course of the day, well past the point to where I’m not enjoying them anymore, but I can’t stop, because something inside has taken over, something that craves sugar, calories, whatever. But it’s easy enough to fix that. I don’t buy giant bags of Twix. The bag is gone and the temptation is gone. I won’t sit around thinking about all of the Twix that I could be eating if only I got up, put my coat on, and walked to the store.

The Internet is in my pocket. I have a faster Internet connection on my cell phone than I did on my actual computer when I was in high school. And that’s only really a backup Internet. I’d only have to rely on cell phone Internet if my house Internet went out. But I’ve been living in this house for a year and it’s only been out once, for like an hour.

So back to writing. I’m writing every day. I’m setting up quotas for myself, how much work I want to get done. These are all goals that I aspire to. Sometimes I fall short. I just can’t shake the feeling that I should be getting more done, that I should have more to write about, but a big part of my consciousness is constantly wanting to be on the Internet. I’m always tempted. My phone beeps every time I get an email. I’m writing on my computer but I can see the browser icon at the bottom of the screen, just begging to be opened up. And if I give in to temptation, hours just vanish. And then the day is over.

This is all way too dramatic. I’m no Luddite. But I just feel like, since this is such a new phenomenon, there’s no way to really assess how I’m doing. I just always worry, is it holding me back? Whenever I can’t think of anything to write about, is it because I’m just constantly distracted, in a way that twenty years ago I wouldn’t have been? If I worked at an office before computers, worked eight hours a day somewhere without any access to distraction, would I have done a good job? Learned a business? Taken pride in what I do for a living? Or would I have been the same exact way, unable to sit still all day, finding something else to pass the hours, taking breaks every hour to head over to the drug store, to buy that giant bag of Twix, the big one, the party sized bag full of little chocolate covered caramel cookies?