Dr Stewart Hase - Psychologically Speaking

What happened when...?

This last week I have been working in a smallish town, about the size of Lismore, in New Zealand.

Normally I connect to the internet twice a day to answer about a million emails (well, about a hundred anyway) and to teach online programs around the globe. Students are constantly needing attention, there is marking to be done, research reports are due, administrative decisions need to be made, and people want to talk.

Well, this week getting online has been a real problem because it has been a bit tricky finding an easy way to connect to the internet. There is no wireless connection in the hotel; Starbucks closes at 5pm (they have a wireless hotspot); a local provider and telephone connection would cost about $80 for the week; and the information security at the place I am working means I cant log in with my laptop.

After a couple of days of this I was searching the pages of the local paper for the local chapter of Online Anonymous to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Camomile tea has really helped.

How on earth did we manage to live before the internet, email and being online? I seem to remember, dimly, that the world seemed to work okay and things still got done. Things got done without the expectation that we needed to respond within five seconds to a request; documents got sent by mail rather than mysteriously transmitted through the ether and you had time to digest them and think; cheques were in the mail and the electricity didnt get turned off; and there was no compulsion to log-on via your laptop no matter the time and place (planes, trains, airline lounges, around your own swimming pool or even in bed). Even the term logging-on would have been a silly idea associated with hugging trees or something like that, rather than the new language of the internet which is still Swahili for many.

The availability of smaller and smaller bytes of information means that we are less likely to take the time to fully explore ideas and decisions in our quest for the quick fix, instant gratification. It is more and more difficult sorting the wheat from the chaff on an internet that is more concerned with opinion, dogma and emotive messages than it is about fact. I get more and more students, in my teaching role, who think that the internet is a valid source for reputable knowledge.

So, it has been a very sobering experience. Somehow life has gone on as I visit the internet caf every couple of days or so for my fix. There has been much more time for doing other things and my mind seems less cluttered. It is quite possible Im getting old but I think I might join the slow movement. Youve probably heard of these people who are rejecting this cult of instant gratification and high speed action. Rather, they deliberately do things slowly, savouring what they do and being in the moment rather than anticipating the next. Sounds interesting. I have a few more days yet to find out how this might work in my forced isolation from the internet.

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