How much time do I waste online?
There must be moments for all of us when we need to pause and consider our use of time online, and I have in the past sometimes concluded that my own keen commitment to blog discussion, Twitter etc. was getting unhealthily obsessive. A number of things have all come together now to indicate to me that I need to make a proper audit and assess the way my online activity affects: 1. the philosophical, political and religious issues I care about; 2. the social, cultural and community values I support at a local and wider level; and 3. my own self-care, i.e. my psychological and spiritual welfare as a result of engaging with others online, or simply on a more mundane level, could I get out in the daylight more and lose nothing by turning off the computer or smart phone? Indeed, is the phone that smart?
1. I have seen no evidence whatsoever that any online activity engages people sufficiently to make them consider other people’s ideas: the medium is entirely ephemeral and discussion is instantly forgettable.
2. In a limited way, the internet can be useful to further local issues because online discussion can be followed up in a practical way by face-to-face meetings and realistic plans. For example, a neighbourhood watch scheme liaising with the local authority and people in touch on the internet has been one of the positive surprises of this summer.
3, I have found the hazards of engaging with others online, during the past several years, far outweight the benefits or pleasant encounters. There have been times when my professional life has been threatened and my psychological well being has been undermined by people obsessively attempting to pursue me across blogs and other media, simply to destroy my reputation because they disagree with something I said.
On balance then, I have concluded the following:
I should restrict mu activities to blogging on matters that give me pleasure because I can see some result. Therefore this blog continues because it is practical, fun, amuses others and sometimes provides useful information to help my animals.
I should be very wary of engaging too much with news sites, Twitter, any kind of newspaper bloggers, and in particular Catholic traditionalist blogs: a very real waste of time from my point of view, as there are so many of them and they quite often tend to regurgitate the very same issues in more or less the same way, on a three weekly rotation.
There needs to be a sensible balance, however. Some sites, like the excellent Fr Hunwicke and the unmissable Fr Finigan provide thoughtful and spiritual input, and the comment boxes are not full of pointless people doing their own thing regardless of the topic. Brother Eccles remains a positive waste of time and his inimitable humour thankfully doesn’t require getting into pointless combat with commenters, as there are few of them and they are mostly too obscure to be intelligible, apart from the ever lucid Ferdinand Mass-Trousers.
The problem with some blogs is that they get filled up with the outpourings of people who cannot manage to write a successful blog themselves and need to hijack someone else’s blog! This is becoming quite a feature of a few blogs that are plagued by “enthusiasts” who make up to a dozen comments on a post!
So, it’s time for a significant reduction online. Let’s just try and call it a day. What can I do instead? I live alone in a Spanish farmhouse and after I put the donkeys to bed (no, not literally) there isn’t a great deal of entertainment. I’ve tried listening to the Archers, but honestly, I really don’t know how to make such a huge adjustment in life. If anyone can explain the point of it, I would be most grateful.
Or there’s the news on Radio 4. Lovely. Let’s get the latest details on beheadings in the Middle East. Something else that is best left to go its own way. Why lay awake at night trying to get the grisly details out of your head? It is no longer news. it is voyeurism.