Hello! Benedict Ambrose and I have returned from the seaside. That is to say, we have been staying at a place far enough east along the Firth of Forth to count as a shore of the North Sea. My internet fast began a week ago last Saturday, but we did not go away for the first two days. First, residents of Scotland were not free to rent "self-catered accommodation" until Monday, April 26, and, second, my idea of a rest involved tidying our home and then getting the garden sorted.
But a funny thing happened after sorting out the garden on Sunday, April 25. I woke up at 4 AM Monday with shooting pains in my right wrist. I first developed "overuse syndrome" in my right arm when my then-office got a new computer system in 2000, and sometime it comes back. Well, by Monday it was definitely back. I got out of bed, took the wine bottle sleeve out of the freezer, and popped it on my arm. And my part of Monday's cleaning and packing session mostly involved giving B.A. advice and instructions.
It was another lesson in what "resting" means. My first lesson was on Saturday when I felt positively tearful that I had got so little cleaning done. The most I was able to do was clear off my desk, which I haven't been able to use for actual writing for months. It has been a combination bookcase and filing cabinet. We were having a walk, and B.A. suggested we have pizza for supper, and tearfulness gave way to barely suppressed rage. I had been trying to eat healthily for weeks, and the very first day I stop working, yada yada.
Fortunately, it was a silent yada yada. Before the devil could take over my tongue, I recalled that bad things usually happen to people early in their holidays from work. They cry a lot. They get sick. Their minds and bodies take revenge for all the abuse and neglect their owners have put them through. So I said "Yes" to supermarket pizza, and when we got home from our walk, I went for a little lie-down. I was dog tired.
On Sunday my right arm felt a little achy, and as usual I ignored it until--We've been over that. My arm continued the freezy-sleeve treatment all Monday (including on our train) and Tuesday, and I was deeply, deeply grateful I would not have to type or scroll or do any fine hand movements for the next ten days. I read an amazing book about the problems with the internet, and it never once mentioned the damage constant tapping and scrolling does to our actual hands and arms.
That said, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains is a must-read. It has scared me into pledging to be online only eight hours a day. I will also be taking a lunch-break from now on, plus two 15 minute breaks, as if I were back in ye olde government office again. I will go into the garden and stare glassily at the lawn and my veggie trug.
In short (for my posts will be shorter from now on), surfing or just actually reading the web is the intellectual equivalent, author Nicholas Carr says, of doing a crossword puzzle while reading a book. You are constantly, subconsciously problem-solving ("Do I click this link or not?") when you are trying to read. Therefore, you don't really read. You skim. And that, brothers and sisters, is why you and I feel so frustrated sometimes when we use internet sources for our actual work. It is cognitively much harder work than just reading a book, making notes, and typing up a report. Also, you think you are taking it all in, like you do when you read a book, but you're not. Your working memory effectively transfer it to your long-term memory, for the internet is presenting, quite literally, too much information.
But I began The Shallows a week last Tuesday. On Monday evening, after we arrived at the seaside, we just went for a walk, listening to the rigging of little ships chime against the masts in the wind, and bought fish and chips. Although the walk to and from the railway with backpacks and folded canvas garden chairs hadn't been that onerous, I positively wolfed the fish and chips.
As for the internet fast, I will cut to the chase and say that apart from a pronunciation recording on Facebook I used a few times, and the Youtube or pay TV that B.A. streamed into the rental flat's TV and the Skype app on B.A's computer to talk to Mum and Dad, I did not use the internet for ten days. Oh, I sent a Facebook message to Nulli on his birthday, too. But that was it for social media, and I did no surfing or staring at pretty things on Pinterest, eBay, etc.
Yesterday, to ease myself back into the modern world, I checked my work messages. One colleague has had a baby, another has successfully bought things in Virginia while maskless, and Milo Yiannapoulos has thrown a ring into the sea. I then checked my personal email. Of all the dozens of emails, only seven held any interest for me. Two were from our priest, one was from my accountant, one was from a friend in Canada, one was from a young friend wanting references, and two alerted to me to articles I actually wanted to read. Therefore, I have spent part of my eight-hour daily internet allowance today unsubscribing from various companies.
Dear readers, be careful with your brains and, indeed, your wrists.