I came across a review of Dalton Conley's book, Elsewhere, USA, in Business Week magazine recently and I'll be looking for it in my local library. Here's the line from the review that caught my eye:
"We are constantly on the lookout for economic opportunities, whether we're at the gym, our kids' school, or out with friends. This collision of worlds has made us buiser, if not downright frenetic. But it has also left us feeling disjointed and dislocated, as if we should always be somewhere else, doing something else."
Does that feel familiar? It sure does to me. For one thing, I look at every incident in my life as possible fodder for my writing; people, places, phrases, conversations. Any of it could lead to a blog entry or a book.
For another thing, social sites like Facebook demand, "What are you doing now?", every time I check in to see what my friends are up to. It's no longer good enough to live my life; now I have to advertise it, too.
A few years back I would get on my computer, check my email and get right to work. Now I get on the computer and negotiate ten or more sites, giving updates, reading messages, hunting for an interesting conversation to chime in on. In any given day I might interact with a few hundred people.
But do any of them give a rat's ass about me?
Isn't this behavior what you'd expect from a lab rat? Press the button, get a treat, press the button, get a treat. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy talking to people all around the world and I love the opportunity it gives me to talk to people I wouldn't normally get to talk to. I've actually had some amazing conversations over the years, and I've definitely been affected by the company I've kept - I hope for the better.
Is it real, though? Would I have been better off pursuing a couple of true, real-life friendships in town? People I can actually see?
I'm not ready to give up on the internet as a tool, but I know I have to change how I use it. I need to make more active choices about how I use it and let it use me less.