Do not instant anything. Don't multitask. Don't think about tomorrow.
September 8, 2002 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Do not instant anything. Don't multitask. Don't think about tomorrow. Matt Richtel, in a somewhat op-ed piece about technology, thinks we should disconnect ourselves. Just for a day, mind you. I love being connected, and will miss my email greatly, but I'm thinking about doing it. Take a step back, interact with people fully. "That person sitting across from you at lunch deserves all your attention. Pretend that he or she is a New York firefighter. Do not once say: "Hold on. That's the other line." " Anyone wanna try it with me?
posted by gramcracker (28 comments total)
I love my technology absolutely, but on a deeper level, does it just pull us further away from each other? Granted, communities like MeFi are great for interactions and idea exchanges, but do we let technology separate us, even though it's convenient? Shouldn't I give a friend a call instead of just IMing him or her?
posted by gramcracker at 10:07 AM on September 8, 2002

Now I'll now where all the weirdos who stare at me in restaurants are coming from ...
posted by carter at 10:15 AM on September 8, 2002

Pretend that he or she is a New York firefighter.
ok. get your hand off my knee, asshole.
posted by quonsar at 10:31 AM on September 8, 2002

I personally lately have been dissapointed with IM conversations. I tend to talk about a lot less in a longer amount of time. For example, a good 30 minute conversation could consist of really 5 things that could have been said in a minute phone conversation.

Also, there's seeming to be a degeneration of just plain manners and politeness when talking over IM. When it all started, friends would IM each other a friendly "Hey" and ask how they've been and such. Nowadays since through IM and e-mail that my friends are always there the need to say a simple hello is gone, and replaced with an introductory

"Sharon got married"

"That's good."

I think we've gotten so used to abbreviating everything that we've started abbreviating our online conversations. Which as I said is nuts because nothing is really said in a longer amount of time. I much prefer picking up the phone now.
posted by Stan Chin at 10:39 AM on September 8, 2002

Totally agree, Stan. IM conversations just kind of fade, too. One person says something, you don't have anything to say back, and then it's just dead from there.

I just recently had the experience of people telling me via IM that a friend from high school recently passed away . It really didn't seem right. Made his death seem less important, or that I wasn't reacting enough. No matter how much capitalization and emoticons, grief can't be expressed as text.
posted by gramcracker at 10:48 AM on September 8, 2002

Part of the problem for me is that I am usually having two or three IM conversations simultaneously. This naturally means there are big gaps in conversations as I concentrate perhaps on one more than the other. I've certainly always preferred using the phone, even if only for avoiding unfortunate misinterpretations of context. And that annoying wait between messages.

Back on topic, it's a nice idea, and by far the best suggestion for marking 9/11 I've heard so far. I may well give it a go.
posted by zygoticmynci at 10:57 AM on September 8, 2002

"Pretend that he or she is a New York firefighter."

that's gonna cause a lot of imaginary farting.
posted by clango at 11:23 AM on September 8, 2002

As much as I am a propeller head and part of the MTV, short-attention-span, digital generation, I hate cellphones and pagers. And although I'm always connected to the major IM services via fire, those on my list know I prefer a phone call. I use IM maybe once a month, tops. The productivity gain is incredible and having conversations that are meaningful, fast and sometimes rapidly spin off into wonderful tangents is priceless.

So yeah, unplug. You don't have to do it for good, just for a day.
posted by Tacodog at 11:23 AM on September 8, 2002

Pretend that he or she is a New York firefighter.

posted by shagoth at 11:27 AM on September 8, 2002

Maybe technology isn't the issue - maybe what's needed is the mindfulness of doing one thing at a time with your full attention.
posted by CINDERELLEN at 11:39 AM on September 8, 2002

I actually like IM conversations. Keeping track of 50 people (which, among college students, isn't even that many) can be very difficult. Only 15 people on my buddy list actually goto school here, and i only see a handful regularly. The others are all around the country at different colleges. Its just not feasible to be calling all my old friends on the cell phone. Rather, its a helluva lot easier to engane in a 5 minute conversations every once in a while. Plus, i HATE talking on the phone. I always feel incredibly disconnected on the phone, much moreso than on AIM (yes, i do prefer real human contact to anything else).
posted by jmd82 at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2002

Somebody agrees.
posted by sheauga at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2002

i agree with jmd, the phone can be just as disconnecting as an im.
nothing beats person to person contact, but that isn't always possible.
as far as leaving my addiction for one day... i'll give it up when it is my time.
posted by the aloha at 12:36 PM on September 8, 2002

To me, it's a little disturbing that this even needs to be said. Cellphones, email, TV, caramel frappucinos with no whipping cream ... these things are all supposed to help us live our lives. They're not supposed to be our lives, and if we feel empty without them, maybe it's time to throw them away for good.

(I've been seriously thinking about selling my computer, and my cellphone's gone unused for weeks. Go me, or something.)
posted by bwerdmuller at 12:57 PM on September 8, 2002

It's a nice concept, and something I've done from time to time. It can be invigorating. Unfortunately, it's impossible to do on a workday.

Saturday sounds like a nice day to spend in the park.
posted by frykitty at 1:30 PM on September 8, 2002

Okay, is it just me, or is this idea unbearably silly and lame? This kind of 'negative' action seems pointless to me. Why not say, "go take a walk in the park"? "Take the day off and spend it with your kids"? Not upgrading your computer is supposed to be some kind of gesture of togetherness? Not sending IMs is somehow going to add to our world?

I just don't get it. Not being rude to others or procrastinating -- those are things you ought to do every day. If you want to do something special, you need to do it, not sit in your office cut off from the world. It seems a little feeble to make September 11th "leave your gadgets at home" day.
posted by josh at 1:44 PM on September 8, 2002

I think THE COMPUTER has become a metaphor for disconnection. But before the internet, people were complaining just as much that there wasn't enough "real" communication going on. The Internet has simply become the scapegoat for an age-old human problem. Even if technology can aid misanthropism, it's not the root cause.

But being anti-technology is a contrary stance, so it sells papers.
posted by grumblebee at 1:59 PM on September 8, 2002

Lucky for Matt Ritchel that I was online today! Otherwise I would have missed his column.

I had lunch with my boss today and I paid him full attention. Especially when he started to talk about The Subsonics. I never once felt the need to upgrade anything.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:11 PM on September 8, 2002

nothing beats person to person contact

...for annoying the crap out of you! Give me distance any day.
posted by kindall at 2:42 PM on September 8, 2002

ditto to Josh. Not to mention this isn't the first time of an "unplug" day.

Hitting bottom isn't a weekend retreat. It's not a goddamn seminar.
posted by hobbes at 2:43 PM on September 8, 2002

grief can't be expressed as text.

So much for literature...

The trouble is, we have so often abused technology and let it dull our senses.

I fundamentally disagree with that statement. Our tools extend us.
posted by joemaller at 2:53 PM on September 8, 2002

I agree that computational tools extend our reach, both temporal and geographic, but they don't make us feel *more*. Or better, or deeper.

I think that the Jewish sabbath is a cool idea -- it's a day off from the world -- not in a Luddite sense, in an empowering sense. The sabbath is a "temple in time" where you can put away all of the gadgets, interruptions, and work-a-day worries and just be human for the day. Technology is a big part of this. Observant Jews don't drive, they don't talk on the phone or watch TV or even handle money on Saturdays. The intention is to take yourself out of the animalistic cycle of work-to-make-money-to-spend-money. And to get away from the world for 24 (actually 25 hours).

I can't say that I'm not a little bit jealous of them.

skallas: So if you can't IM or Call mother today to say "I love you," as Richtel, suggests you're just going to have to drive there.

Right, but what's going to matter more to you? Or your mom?
posted by zpousman at 3:10 PM on September 8, 2002

Rather than a break I prefer to take time to use The Technology for fun rather than work.

Anti-technology isn't relaxing for me.
posted by holloway at 5:41 PM on September 8, 2002

Regardless of whether the target is IMing, television, smoking, or shopping, I find the "for a day" concept a bit trite and off-putting. If one has a destructive relationship with some external object, I don't see how doing without for a day helps mend that relationship. More likely, it will create anger and frustration, making it even less likely one will reevaluate that relationship.
posted by chipr at 5:50 PM on September 8, 2002

lets all not post or comment on wednesday,

how about that??
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:42 PM on September 8, 2002

Just as IMing has its disadvantages due to its nature, so does it have its definite advantages. There is much to be said for the word play, the slow yet somehow rhythmic ebb and flow of conversation, the pauses. You find that a conversation can be broadened, more rich because of the extra time IMing allows. It depends entirely on the type of conversation. Perhaps talking on the telephone is best for those you also know in real life, as that is the kind of conversation you are both accustomed to having. Where some people may not be articulate or come across as they intend on the telephone, IMing allows them a fanastic alternative.
posted by brittney at 6:51 PM on September 8, 2002

Amen to what chipr said.

Also, I find it kind of offensive that this columnist is appropriating the 9/11 anniversary for his idea.

"No one will listen to this on its own merits, but if I throw in some references to NY firefighters, instant legitimacy!"

'Course, it seems like there's a lot of that going around.
posted by eyebeam at 9:06 AM on September 9, 2002

Our tools extend us.

Well mine has certainly helped me win the 100 yard dash more than a couple of times.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:16 AM on September 9, 2002

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