"For years, the idea of a digital sabbatical has appealed to the hyper-connected set -- people who spend most of their days in front of computer screens, checking blogs, reading Twitter and somehow trying to figure out how to get their work done in between. At the office, they dodge dozens of click-me-now messages per minute, each demanding instant attention." CONTINUED
This concept sounds really attractive, particularly after spending most of the past three years glued to a laptop screen. The last thing I wanted to see after turning in my final dissertation deposit was a keyboard and mouse. Or to sit in a chair, for that matter.
The irony, of course, is I study the Internet and politics. That, and I'm in a tech-heavy Air Force career field. Thus, I have no choice but to remain plugged in.
I suppose it wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't for the "above to fold" nature of the Internet--or, at least that's how I see it. For those of you who don't know what a real, honest-to-god newspaper is, the term refers to reading the catchy headline on the front page just above where the paper is folded in half. In Internet terms, it's been transposed to mean reading information without scrolling down the page.
In other words, good for getting the gist, but you miss the deeper analysis. Or, as The Atlantic once asked, "Is Google Making us Stupid?"
Note, though, that I'm the kind of guy who can spend an hour and change reading a paper New York Times from cover to cover. When I read and article, I want to read everything. I don't feel whole otherwise. Indeed, reading is my favorite pasttime. I owe my "smarts" not to being particularly more intelligent than the next fellow, but because I read widely on a variety of subjects.
Yet, continuous information bombardment on the interwebs makes reading down to the last word almost impossible--and this is coming from a fellow who can read over 100 book pages an hour (naturally, too--I don't use any speed reading methods). Thus, I find myself treating more and more online information like tweets: what does the first paragraph say? The first line? What info pops up when I hover the mouse over a link? To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, such reading makes me feel intellectually thin, like too little butter spread over too much bread.
That said... man, did I read over my doctoral studies. Mountains of text, both palpable and electronic. I mean, getting paid to read and drink coffee is a gig that should theoretically never get old. But, I found myself turning to cheap pulp Forgotten Realms fantasy novels in the evening after spending my days consuming academia.
Even so, I preferred reading hard copy political science over electronic articles when given the opportunity. For one, reading over twenty pages on a lit screen gets old after a while; and second, I cave easily to distractions such as Twitter and other social media. In the latter case, it's amazing how quickly and hour can disappear just from reading 140 characters of text (and don't get me started on Wikipedia surfing).
The end result of this rambling diatribe is I'm just ****ing tired of staring at computer screens all day, let alone depending on endless supplies of concise ones and zeroes for all my information.
No, I'm not going offline; nor am I giving up my research. But before I move to San Antonio in late June, I think a few days with paper books that can actually be weighed on a scale will do me good.