Saturday, June 6, 2009

An Inability to Log Off

At n+1, Benjamin Kunkel has an insightful and measured essay about the Internet and the changes it has wrought on reading, writing, and the way we spend our leisure time. Much of it resonated strongly with me, including these two passages:

We don't feel as if we had freely chosen our online practices. We feel instead that they are habits we have helplessly picked up or that history has enforced, that we are not distributing our attention as we intend or even like to. The experience of being online has at least as much to do with compulsiveness as with liberty....

An inability to log off is hardly the most destructive habit you could acquire, but it seems unlikely there is any more widespread compulsion among the professional middle-class and their children than lingering online.


And this one too:

I have noticed that it's of no great use telling myself, when I go online, that I should muster my willpower against the sirens of amusement, distraction, and curiosity. I do better at not spending too much time at my computer if I remind myself how comparatively shallow and irregular my enjoyment of the internet is. The truth is that we are often bored to death by what we find online—but this is boredom on the installment plan, one click a time, and therefore imperceptible. 

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