Going cold turkey

Recently a friend posted something on facebook about how people are missing their children’s childhoods because they are spending so much time on their smart phones.

The very next day, over dinner, two friends mentioned how time seems to be going so much faster now.  They chalked it up to getting older, and I’m sure that is some of it (waiting two days for something when you are a kid seems like FOREVER – I remember that).  But I think there is more to it than that.  I think that, with our now ubiquitous Internet, we fill in all the previously slow times with games and apps and texts.

I do not have a smart phone.  I do have a cell phone, but it rarely rings and is often in my other pants.  However, I do spend quite a bit of time on the Internet in various ways (at work, but also in a lot of my spare time).  And I have been aware for many years now of how time can fly by when I am on the computer.  A simple “I’ll check my email, it’ll just take a minute” can easily turn into an hour.  And it’s not just playing – at work, if I get involved in a computer project late in the day, I can actually forget to leave at my normal quitting time because I get caught up and don’t realize how much time has gone by.

The thing is, I don’t want my time to fly by anymore.  I am officially middle-aged, and I would like the next 40 or 45 years to go slowly, as I am not sure what is going to happen to me after that.  Even if there is some other world after this one, I want to see this one as much as possible before I go.

It’s not about “missing my son’s childhood” so much as about missing my own life.

It’s like why I don’t smoke pot.  I did a few times.  It was a little interesting, I guess.  I basically sat around and thought what I thought were very important thoughts…  and then it was many hours later.  The way time went by without me noticing was actually very similar to how time goes by when I’m, say, playing Candy Crush.

Yes, I just compared marijuana and Candy Crush.  I think they are amazingly similar experiences.  You sit there for hours “thinking” and feeling like you’re accomplishing something, and when you snap out of it later you know that you really just wasted that time, that all the amazing things you figured out really don’t mean anything at all now that you’re back in the real world.  I don’t think pot is any more dangerous or destructive than Candy Crush.  Actually, Candy Crush is more addictive, and since it’s free and legal it is easy to waste far more time with it than with pot.  Since my only real beef with pot is that it’s a waste of time, I now realize that I honestly believe that Candy Crush is more detrimental to quality of life than pot is.

Wow, I just blew my own mind.  Next time someone argues with me about whether pot should be legalized, instead of my usual argument that it is no more dangerous than legal alcoholic beverages, I’m going to argue that it’s no worse than Candy Crush.

Anyway, back to my point.

I want to maximize my time and my experiences on this planet of ours.  I want to be “here”, wherever “here” is at the time, as much as I can.  I always feel a little sad when I’m waiting in line at a store, or sitting on a park bench, or eating in the office break room, and most of the people around me are fiddling with their smart phones the whole time.  I feel like the world is getting more and more lonely as everyone around me is online in public.  I can be in a room with ten people, and most of them are not really here at all.

I think about when I was young, before all this Internet stuff.  I had a certain amount of escapism available:  television, books, music (I loved my Sony Walkman), and good old daydreaming.  I still engage in those, of course.  Of those things, none but television takes time away from me in anywhere near the same way that the Internet does.  When I read a book, I am still “here”, enjoying my present – often I’m reading in the bathtub or snuggled in bed, and the bath or bed is as much a part of the reading experience as the book is.  When I listen to music, it is as a soundtrack while I cook, clean the house, drive the car, or exercise.  I guess I’m not as good at daydreaming as I used to be, because I don’t seem to spend as much time at that – maybe I will as I cut back on my Internet time.

There is something else that I used to do as a time waster when I was young – playing solitaire.  Back when I did it with a deck of cards, on the table or the floor or even on my bed.  After years of computer solitaire, I recently played a few rounds with a physical deck and I was amazed by the difference.  When I sat at that table and played solitaire with the deck of cards, I was at that table the whole time.  I had to shuffle the cards and re-deal them after each failed round.  The cards got crooked and I had to straighten them.  A cat reached up to bat the cards, and I had to move her away.  It took longer to make each move, and losing a game meant I had to shuffle and re-deal again.  I was aware of the time passing, aware of my surroundings.  It actually felt bizarre.  Compared to computer solitaire, it seemed like manual labor.  I realized that the computer had removed the physical world completely from the game of solitaire.  And I realized that I was disturbed by that.

So here is my plan:  I’m going cold turkey from computer games.  I will still check with my friends on facebook, but no more Candy Crush and no more jayisgames.com (oh, how I will miss you, jayisgames).  I will still play Wii Sports and Just Dance, because those are exercise and I do not feel like I am escaping the world when I do those things – the moving around and the increased heart rate keep me “here”.

I am curious to see how my life will change over the next few weeks.  I assume that I will go for more walks, read more, and play more card games with my son.  Or maybe I’m giving myself too much credit and I’ll just nap more.


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