This blog and my twitter account have been very quiet for the past year. This time it wasn’t entirely due to laziness or a lack of motivation. Instead, as an experiment, I gave up all forms of social networking and online news: I stopped reading all blogs, I uninstalled the twitter and facebook apps, I deleted all bookmarks to anything resembling an online news service, and I removed all chat programs. Apart from one or two minor lapses, in order to obtain some contact details, the closest I was to anything resembling a social network is arxiv.org and the closest news source has been (occasionally) the radio. (Not internet radio though.) I did, however, read email (alas, this seems to be necessary for daily functioning in a large institution in the modern world…)
Why did I do this? I think it is an understatement to say that the internet is distracting and I increasingly had the suspicion that news and social networks did not make me happier. I also suspected that the internet was a serious drain on productivity. So, what is the result? Disappointingly, my productivity didn’t soar. It turns out that you can be distracted by things that aren’t the internet, e.g., unfortunately, books. This problem must be solved by some other productivity measure (however, visiting a lifehacker site is still strictly forbidden!).
What about happiness? This is more interesting: I think I am, in general, actually a teensy weensy bit happier. It is abundantly clear that “giving up the internet” is not a miracle cure for the malaise of modern life. But one does feel noticeably calmer on a day to day basis when not exposed to people being wrong on the Internet.
But didn’t I miss out on loads of important things? Well, it seems not. It gives you a sense of perspective to stop living in the sometimes hollow echo chamber that is the blogo-twitter-gplus-facebook-sphere. I’m sure I missed out on loads of really important scandals and outrages. I do know that I missed out on a couple of really very good blog articles: but the nice thing is that the good ones I did miss got recommended to me by word of mouth.
I am now returning to a more active internet presence: I strongly believe in open access science, and open science in general. I also believe that social networks are a fantastic medium with which to interact with others in science. I just wish there was a really simple way to filter out all the negative stuff.
To kick things back off on this blog I will be right back with a guest post 😉