About two weeks ago, I broke up with the Internet. “It’s not you, it’s me,” I explained. “You’re great. I wish we could still be friends, but I’m not very good at that. So here’s how it’s going to go. I’m going to use you. Remember a couple of years ago, when the New York Times discovered the term, friends-with-benefits? You are not going to be my friend, but I’ll still reap the benfits. Research. Communication. Utility — buying stuff, booking travel.”
Other than that, I’m allowed 30 minutes a day and I go to exactly three sites: Nancy Nall’s blog, Jezebel (primarily for Fine Lines) and Romenesko. Obviously, I often use these sites to read other things — Jack Shafer’s piece on Frank Rich, for example, and his new relationship with HBO. But the fact is, I seldom use my 30 minutes of allotted reading time.
So how can I continue to maintain a blog? Well, as you may have noticed, I’ve barely been maintaining this blog, but that was part of the withdrawal period. It falls under the category of communication. Hypocritical? Maybe. I’m still working that out.
Let me stress — there’s nothing wrong with the Internet. It’s a tool, like anything else. And, lately, it was as if I had plucked a hammer from my tool box and used it as a flyswatter. Worse still, the fly was on my forehead. My attention span had been damaged; I was finding it difficult to read novels. This week, I’ve read two novels — including Duane Swierczynski’s superb Severance Package — and listened to A LOT of This American Life. A practice that was kick-started by Nancy Nall’s praise for TAL’s Giant Pool of Money. So, again, there’s nothing wrong with the Internet. I was the problem.
The Internet more or less vanquished from my life, I discovered that I could not watch certain television shows, because my enjoyment of them was augmented by visiting the boards at TWoP and reading about how stupid they are. So I’m pretty much down to “Top Chef” and “The Paper.” (Yes, I feel the Lorber love.) And I’m beginning to watch Slings & Arrows on DVD.
Here’s the oddest thing that has happened so far. I was burning CDs for friends, listening to Re-birth’s I Feel Like Funkin’ It Up and I started dancing in my kitchen. And I danced for twenty minutes or so. A ridiculous image — some of you are probably reeling from your screens, screaming, “My eyes, my eyes!” But it’s twenty minutes I don’t regret.
So I’ll still be here, stirring the memory pot. I hope people don’t see this as someone purely on out-go, interested only in the conversations I initiate. If you email me about a book or a film, I’ll probably respond with great enthusiasm. (Less Internet reading also means more time to keep up with email.) I could go on and on, for example, about William Grimes’s article on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, which I came close to buying a month ago, and discarded precisely because of its bias toward the late 20th century. And, also, because I did the math. On average, it takes me a decade to read 1000 books.
Relative to, say, Sarah Weinman. In her household, 1,000 books is known as “June.”
Enjoy the long weekend. And, in the spirit of the project, feel free to share stories of harmless things you had to give up for your own sanity.(I also gave up weighing myself for almost a decade, but I’ve been getting on the scale again, having decided that not-weighing myself gave the number just as much power, albeit in a different way.)