Life in the Information Age

Newspapers taught us that something changes everyday. Radio taught us things change during the day. TV taught us things are always changing. And the internet teaches me I’m the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on right now.

I’ve developed a habit of checking my email and other online accounts hundreds of times an hour. Five minutes seems eternity because, who knows, maybe someone has answered my urgent inquiry about reimbursal for a taxi ride two weeks ago or located my lost pen cap. Perhaps another person in a group of people has viewed my profile on LinkedIn or written something witty about my distressed status on Facebook. Those cat pictures are really funny.

Someone may have answered my comment on that blog or have visited me here and liked what I wrote.

If people don’t like me, I start to feel lost, and, when my accounts remain empty or inactive, I begin to worry—what if everyone is away reading news of a cataclysmic event… or a campaign gaffe… or some celebrity misstep? Think of everything I’m missing writing this post right now and what you’re missing by reading it. I hope you have another window open and the sound unmuted.

I read recently somewhere that finding notifications online stimulates the brain just as game stimulated early human brains. I don’t remember where I encountered that piece of information—because so very much has happened since then—but it makes sense. I look for flags and numbers in precisely the same way I’d look for rabbits were I preternaturally hungry. Shifting my gaze from warren to warren, my heart palpitates in hope of catching one pair of eyes or ears, one subtle shift in the beige-brown background signaling something there to consume.

We’re all looking, and if no game appears, we have each others’ reports of game. You can rest assured someone has seen something somewhere and will let you know. Many of the reports I receive in email tell me about information elsewhere. I click on them, and they whisk me to new vistas. Click there, and I’m transported again. It’s doubly satisfying when something changes and your email changes to alert you to that change. You can open layers of layers of curtains before you spy the stage. And, even if what you encounter is a spot-lit bean on a broken stool, at least getting there was dramatic.

Please pardon my scattered thoughts. My attention span is shot. I can’t tell distraction from devotion and vital from new. Every task deserves interruption—if you even call them interruptions. Really they are messages from another source, one of the many sources we are so very lucky to access every second of every day in this modern technological marvel of a world. We can learn anything, we can know everything (or access anything known), and, if someone will only send me a text or tweet or email me where to look, I can get on that right away.

But, actually, maybe not now. An icon is leaping like a terrier at the edge of my sight. Some program needs updating, and if I don’t do it immediately, I may lose you forever.

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14 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Essays, Facebook, Laments, life, Modern Life, Satire, Thoreau, Thoughts, Worry

14 responses to “Life in the Information Age

  1. Sorry to distract you yet again, but I you describe the problem so well. In some ways it’s great to have this instant access to information, creativity, others – but then then there’s the downside. I’m contemplating pulling the plug on some of these windows, but then …. Let me know if you find a solution!

    • dmarshall58

      Believe me, I didn’t mean to suggest comments were a distraction. I love comments. I was just looking for a dramatic, satirical way to address the onslaught of information in our lives… and make people laugh at themselves, maybe. Your comments are always welcome, and thanks for visiting. –D

  2. You nail what happens. I laughed several times, recognising what happens to me. It is a drug, I realised recently, with the same addictive qualities. Every now and then I pull away for a week or two, but the pull away has to be complete. No such thing as a sip.

    • dmarshall58

      Though this piece wasn’t entirely serious, it’s unfortunately a pretty accurate portrayal of my life. I’ve sponsored a project at school where I ask students to put aside one technology a day (television then iPod then computer then phone) so that by the end of week they are totally “off” technology. I do it too, and suddenly I find I’m sleeping longer and better and generally feeling more relaxed. Too bad I can’t stick to it–work would never allow it, and I’d have to give up blogging too.

      Thanks for visiting! –D

  3. Each advance in technology begs the question “How did we survive before [fill in the blank]?” – Facebook, e-mail, the internet, cell phones, personal computers, TV, etc.
    I wonder if the anxiety level is higher for those of us who lived before the introduction of a new information age marvel than those for whom it was a part of everyday life.

    • dmarshall58

      I often wonder how convenient our conveniences really are. I’m old enough to remember the pre-email life and, maybe I’m being nostalgic, but it seems as though I had much more time then. Now I answer emails for at least an hour a day, and often it only feels like work when really it’s an impediment to accomplishing something more worthwhile.

      Of course, whenever I say so, colleagues scoff. As you say, they wonder how we could live without email when, if you’re old enough, you know how.

      Thanks for communing with my dismay. –D

  4. I really related to this. I’ve begun to worry about myself, how often I go to check email, post comments and likes, FB, Huffington Post, cell texts, etc. If nothing much interesting shows up I feel disappointed and a little lost. I don’t like feeling like this, and realize it is an addiction. I threaten to “pull the plug.” I say I’m going ONE WHOLE DAY, or maybe one morning, or one evening without checking anything. But I never do. It’s part of the instant gratification, I think, that’s on the rise during this information age, the need to be constantly stimulated. The only time I can get away and feel peaceful and at home in myself, is when I’m in nature. Then the “monkey mind” turns off, and I just let “what is” drift through consciousness “without thought.”

    BTW–do you have Facebook? I was looking for a FB share icon on your page so I could share this–a lot of people struggling with this I think.

    • dmarshall58

      I’m ashamed to say that I do have FB. I went back and adjusted my notifications to communicate that. I did discontinue FB for a time but, when my book was coming out, I didn’t dare not have it because I thought, “How will anyone find it? How will they know?” I guess that says it all.

      Part of me wonders if our technologies may actually rewire our brains (or at least reprogram them) and make us more suited to short bursts of information and more susceptible to the sort of stimulation addiction that besets this generation. In Chicago, I don’t have enough nature to counteract the effects of technology, but I do sometimes leave work just to walk, just to listen and watch and generally absorb more. So much of what I experience comes right here, in front of a screen. It’s sad really, though I tried to find some humor in it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment and thanks for visiting. –D

  5. You nailed it. Right now I’m reading blogs instead of working on a difficult project. Really must get back to it, but there is still FB to check and, who’s been reading my blog?…

    • dmarshall58

      Exactly that. My attention seems so divided these days. The most concentrated time in my life is writing my posts. Otherwise, I can’t remember the last time I sat down to work uninterrupted for hours on a single project. I wish I had more self-discipline, the sort that would allow me to be more efficient and productive. I have a feeling I might be saner, but I’m not sure I’ll ever find out definitively. Thanks for visiting! –D

  6. I completely understand the lost feeling that accompanies a lack of activity in one’s comments section/inbox 🙂 I hadn’t written anything much on my blog for a few days and was almost depressed. No writing, no comments, no activity… no rabbits. 🙂 Then, on a whim, I made one silly post and got a couple of “likes.” It was like a shot of caffeine. I was amazed at how much I’d missed them.

    • dmarshall58

      Haven’t we all been there! It’s funny how blogging can absorb so much of your attention. At first, you hope to write to keep a hand in and soon you’re writing as if it were expected of you. It’s hard not to attach importance to all our “likes” and comments and statics. Some of that is natural–who wouldn’t want to be read?–but some we’ve learned to expect… or hope for. I’m so grateful to have readers, I don’t want to let anyone down! Thank you for visiting and commenting! –D

  7. Thomas

    You’ve really captured the truth of it here. My question is this: While you wrote this blog post did you also a) send/recieve a text on your smartphone? b) have the TV on in the background and turn your head to watch an interesting segment? or 3) get/post a tweet?

    ..hmmm….tweet….bird…..rabbits….game

    • dmarshall58

      A. No, because I only have a dumb phone. I think a smart phone might be wasted on me, but my children say I’d quickly get used to it and then addicted to it. B. No, I only watch TV on weekends really, and even then only sparingly and/or secondhand because someone else is watching. and C. Okay, maybe. I don’t tweet or read twitter, but I’m always here, wondering what news may arrive. I’m always glad to see your name. Thanks for visiting. –D

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