People cannot get off the internet.
Except, oddly, I find that I can.
As life becomes shorter, I want more art. Ars longa, vita brevis.
I realize, depressingly, that life is finite. My hair is gray, and the skin on my legs is crepey. (Can this be I?) And I suddenly realize, You don’t want to spend the rest of your life sitting in front of the computer screen.
Does it matter if I tell you how much I love Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts? Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn’t. But if I do write about Between the Acts, I will have to think hard about the complex relationship between the audience and the play, and the intense language, and I realize that I would prefer reading Hermione Lee’s biography, or Quentin Bell’s biography, to blogging about Woolf’s work.
Some of the awe of Woolf is about going to London. I woke up in anxiety in the middle of the night, realizing I haven’t properly planned my trip, that I need to map my routes ahead of time, and that I should prepare a couple of self-guided literary tours, even if it only means looking at plaques on houses. And so I went to the library and looked at some books about the Bloomsbury group. And I remembered how wonderful it used to be to go to the library instead of look up everything online. And I thought…
Perhaps I can do Barbara Pym’s suburbs!
It’s all about time.
I need more.
The cyber-’90s and the cyber-zips changed all of us and the way we interact and the way we research–and I have loved it, but I have also grown bored with it. I miss going to the library. The whole idea of Google Glass makes me want to puke.
I recently read a good essay at, I think, the Huffington Post, about cyber addiction. If I could find this again, I would quote from it, because it applies to so many people. The writer gave up checking Facebook (and other online features) on his phone and thus gained more time.
Cyber addiction can be a nightmare, almost as bad as drinking or drugs, though we don’t admit it. We check our email, read a couple of articles, check our social media, do God knows what, and then we do it all again, again, again, again, and perhaps again.
We think of social media as promoting freedom of communication, but we are also being “tapped,” staying indoors more (the U.S. is now a much fatter country that it used to e, between the internet and side effects of the prescription drugs taken by 70% of Americans), and advertisements chase us around the net. Whatever site I go to, I am followed by sidebars ads from catalogues from which I’ve ordered. I’m used to it. But I will never, ever order an item promoted in one of those sidebars. I have not quite lost my freedom.
And suddenly this winter, the coldest winter in years, I have grown bored with the internet. It happened very suddenly. You would think I’d want to be online more in the winter. But I got tired of the endless repetition. I need less screen time.
Only a few months ago I wrote about Twitter addiction. I thought Twitter was remarkably stupid, but I subscribed to 50, or was it 100?, book review sites and wasted a lot of time clicking on articles I didn’t want to read anyway, until I realized that I visited many of these sites several times a week anyway, and did not need the tweets to keep informed about books. (And I was so sick of Tin House.) I closed my Twitter account.
So it’s all about balance. I love Woolf’s Between the Acts. And perhaps I’ll write about it someday.
And so this is my between-the-acts.