Reference to Thoreau, drawn by James Strum
I am, contrary to popular belief, able to live without Internet. At Achchi’s house, for example, I have to go down the hill for reception and I simply don’t. For like a day. If I am in love or some similar state (like dengue) I may disappear for a few weeks, but even then only from the blog. Facebook and GTalk are vital appendages to the modern mating dance. That said, barring being bed-ridden, I haven’t been off the Internet for more than a week, like, ever. Which is rather off. This is why I’ve been so interested to follow James Sturm’s series on going offline.
I have often wondered what would happen without Google or Wikipedia. How many bar-room debates would go on forever? How did I ever find phone numbers? Or accommodation? There are no particular facts that are out of reach anymore, but I’m not sure my experience is that much richer. I suppose what happens is that the mind becomes extended across the Internets but the basic dissatisfaction (dukkha if you will) fluctuates temporarily and eventually returns to a certain mean.
Indeed, there are some new theories of mind (Mind Extension) that posit that the mind itself is extended across this technology. That is, that the mind extends out of our skull onto, I suppose, Google.
Yet, as Mr. Strum show, it is possible to entirely disconnect and not melt into a puddle of incoherent goo.
One benefit of being offline so far is that I am drawing a lot more than I was before. I knew committing to do this column would force me to produce, but I am heartened by how seamlessly my time spent connected to the Internet has become time spent drawing. In the last two weeks, I’ve already filled up a 40-page 4″x6″ photo album (I purchase these in 99-cent stores) with watercolor paintings. This work seems to foster patience (I literally have to wait for the paint to dry), whereas on the Web, I was a hyperactive child with zero attention span.
What are these paintings about? Hard to say. Maybe the robot represents technology? Maybe the elephant represents memory? I have no idea what the rabbi is about. Jewish identity? Maybe this series of drawings will lead somewhere productive and maybe not. Either way, at least I have something to show for countless hours of compulsive behavior. (Entry Two, the cartoons are worth seeing)
Another interesting fact is that unlike, say, this blog, the comments are all physically mailed to him. And they are almost uniformly positive. One severe detriment of online comments is that any troll can post vituperative nonsense, ad nauseum, such that I am I think unduly inured to comments on my penis size, family, genocidal tendencies, treasonous leanings, etc. I suspect these people would not send me mail.
Every single letter was supportive. I’ve been told that this isn’t the case in the column’s online comments section. Are sympathetic people more motivated to write? Or is it just that if someone doesn’t care for the column, why should he waste more time writing to me about it? Either way, my exposure to negativity, both in terms of feedback on Market Day and this column, is greatly reduced by being offline. If and when I eventually go back to read all the responses to both, I think enough time will have passed and I’ll have a healthier distance from my work—it will be easier to either shrug it off or take the criticism constructively. There is a lot to be said for a slower feedback loop. (Entry 3)
It’s an interesting experiment and I enjoy following it. Online.