John Freeman thinks so, obviously, or he wouldn't have whipped up this lengthy essay for the Wall Street Journal (which is adapted from a forthcoming book, but still).In a couple places, Freeman is too hyperbolic. I don't think I email to avoid reckoning with death, for example. And when ducked into a nearby park to read Freeman's piece, I didn't just see people hunched over their laptops, pulled out of their physical environment. Instead, I saw one guy with a computer; one guy on a phone; a couple people reading; and a bunch more people hanging out in small groups.But I'm not unsympathetic to Freeman's broader argument. My computer went on the fritz last week, and I didn't have internet access from Thursday night through Monday morning. At first I was antsy. By the time the weekend ended, I was totally loving my disconnected state. I felt mentally cleaner--an outcome that came as no surprise.
You've probably experienced something similar--and like me, you're probably not going to renounce the web. So what's the solution?"It starts with a simple suggestion: Don't send," writes Freeman. I know he's got a book to push, but I don't think that works. My email activity, whether it's personal or professional, is probably the most justifiable stuff I do online. It's the stuff I do *after* I check email that seems more problematic--whether it's checking a worthwhile blog for the second time in ten minutes, instead of just holding off until the next day; or doing a Google News search for "Ricky Rubio" (it's a long story); or comparing my Myers-Briggs results to sundry people on Facebook. (Judging from Freeman's piece, he may be conflating "email" and the web in a way that undercuts his case.) So again--what's the solution? Don't waste time with stupid shit online? That would do it, of course--but between A) the way our brains are wired and B) the fact that the boundary between stupid shit and worthwhile material (e.g., Freeman's piece, which I found via Facebook) isn't always clear, it's not that easy.