This is one of those articles I'd had sitting up on my desktop in a browser window for several days -- hesitating over whether blogging about it would be too great an irony given the subject matter. I suppose I'm actually more unplugged than many these days. I carry an old-fashioned flip phone, so although I can be rather reclusive at large gatherings I will not be the one you see bent silently over an iPhone, tapping away. Though I sometimes feel like, for want of time, most of my interaction with people who are outside my immediate family is via facebook, email, blog, etc., I have at least not reached the point where I compulsively check these while on the run. I don't have an iPad or Kindle yet, though I'll admit my keep wishing I had an excuse to justify the expense. And I continue to hold out against twitter, though this is perhaps an empty virtue given that I'm clearly too verbose for it anyway.
This is of little help in that my work puts me in front of a computer for 9-10 hours a day, and at home the computer is always on and available. A walk through the living room seems to necessitate a quick check to see if "there is any news" in the form of a new email or something going on on Facebook. At work, "taking a break" often means pulling a web browser up over my Excel window for a few minutes "browsing around". And when I have busy-work of some sort to get through I often end up listening to a podcast or audiobook while working.
And while I can at least claim to actually cover territory (walking, jogging or cycling outside in the real, non-air-conditioned world) or lift real weights while exercising -- I often do so while listening to an audiobook or music.
It's not so much even the desire to be entertained all the time, but rather the flailing sense that there is never enough time. It's hard to read even a portion of the books I'd like to have the chance to get through, and I don't get to spend time in person with friends as often as I'd like, and so I find myself trying to cram bits of reading and social interaction into smaller and smaller pieces of what would otherwise be spare time.
Though I can't help wondering to what degree this destroys time rather than optimizing it. For all that listening to Shelby Foote's monumental Civil War, A Narrative for an hour while covering four or five miles at a walk allows me to feel like I'm not "wasting" the time that needs to go into keeping my body from completely atrophying into an appendage of my desk, I wonder sometimes if I waste equal amounts of time with repeated five minutes checks of facebook, blog comments, etc. at intervals far closer than is necessary -- simply because it's a brief exercise that fits well into moving from one task to another on the ever-present computer. (Or perhaps more honestly -- serves as a timewaster during the 5-10 minutes I put off moving to the next task.)
A while back, a friend got me to take a couple hours out of a weekend morning to go play ultimate frisbee for a couple hours despite the Texas heat, and I was struck by how different it is, mentally, to spend some time doing physical activity without simultaneously having your brain engaged in some unrelated, information-based task. It was something so mentally refreshing I know in my heart I should find some way to commit to doing that sort of thing much more often. And yet, that would mean giving up time to just one thing...
Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days
1 hour ago