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experimental results

maura @ 10:19 pm

Last week we took a vacation in Vermont and I put myself on an internets diet. In some ways it was fairly easy to do — cellphone and internets can be wonky up there, and I didn’t always have access in the places we were visiting. But with all of the bajillions of articles recently about information overload and hyperabundance and how our brains/behavior do or don’t change with all of the internet info we consume, I thought it might be an interesting experiment.

My rules were:
– Check work email once/day (I get kind of anxious when the work email piles up so I rarely ignore it entirely, even when we’re on vacation. But I only answered the few that seemed like they couldn’t wait.)
– Check home email once/day (Since we had catsitters I felt like I couldn’t completely ignore home email. And I get much less email at my home account anyway.)
– No Twitter
– No RSS feeds
– No other internets reading/browsing, e.g., New York Times (If you can’t ignore the news for a week is it really even a vacation?)

I also promised myself that I wouldn’t feel bad about skipping all of that info, or try to catch up on it later. Which for the most part was successful: though I did end up reading a couple of things published last week in the early part of this week, I also went into my Google Reader when we got home Sunday night and pushed the magical Mark All As Read button to clear out the feeds. (Oh, the power!)

The results were hardly earth-shattering, but they were sort of interesting. In practice what happened is that I didn’t use my computer phone to fill in the gaps between activities. Usually I’ll check Twitter or read feeds or check email in the myriad little bits of time I encounter throughout the day: waiting in line or for the people I’m with to be ready to go do something, watching Gus (in this case while swimming in the pool or pond), sometimes while riding in the car (though this is dicey because it tends to tweak my carsickness).

Without the internets I spent those bits of time last week thinking, spacing out, watching the world go by, etc. It was relaxing in a way, kind of soothing and boring at the same time. I was happy to learn that it didn’t make me all twitchy, which I’d feared since I am definitely susceptible to the mini-endorphin rush of a new email alert or a pile of new tweets.

For the longer stretches of time I did lots of book readin’, just like in the olden days. I read one from start to finish, finished up another I’d started a while ago, and read parts of two others. It’s definitely easier to read while on vacation, and I appreciated having the stretches of time while Gus was happily splashing around to get some reading in.

Now that the experiment is over I’m back to the usual stuff at work and at home. Though I do think I’m interacting more thoughtfully with the internets than before. Of course, it’s still the slowish summer — I’m sure my internets serenity will go right out the window once the semester (and the course I’m teaching) begins in (eep!) 22 days.

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