The second level this post resonated with me on is more academic. The author mentions a book called Hamlet's Blackberry, which I read in a first year honors seminar during my undergraduate studies. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in this topic. After reading this book, we were given an assignment to take a "Internet sabbath" (24 hours without technology) and write a reflection about that time. This was a relatively short report, so I'll include it below. Reading through it, I'm reminded of how reliant we are on technology, especially the Internet in education. For example, when I turn on my computer each morning when I get to the office, without even really thinking about it, I automatically pull up my email and Scholar, and I stay logged into those two sites all day. I also spend more time than anyone would really like to on the library databases and Google Scholar. An Internet sabbath in grad school is completely unrealistic. With that being said, there are different facets of technology from which we can disconnect easier. For example, on weekdays, I often only look at social media sites in the evening, as there simply isn't time during the day or I'd rather spend the limited free time I do have talking to my friends or engaging with my office mates.
My research is also focused on social media, so to say I'm not interested in these platforms and they are not extremely engrained in my life would be simply untrue. However, even as someone who researches how other people or how organizations use Twitter, for example, I still recognize the benefits of human to human interaction. When I'm with the right people, I don't care about looking at my phone. When I'm in the office, though, I can't go without my computer and the connections it affords me, whether they be emails, access to articles, or looking up information. I'm not so sure this is a bad thing. In the past, wouldn't people have been as reliant on the library (you know, the physical building and all the books it houses) as we are on Google and Google Scholar? Just because we look to different technologies to get this information doesn't mean we aren't as interested in learning as we once were.
Realistically, disconnecting is often not an option, or at least disconnecting for significant periods of time isn't. If we aren't using technology for fun, we're probably using it for work. Like it or not, Hamlet's Blackberry and our reliance on technology are here to stay.
If you're interested, this is the reflection paper I wrote for my honors seminar following my Internet sabbath during my freshman year of college. The paper was dated April 1, 2012.
I don’t think it’s any secret that this Internet Sabbath was going to be a challenge for me. I thought my main problem would be not using Twitter or Facebook, but not being able to use the Internet for other purposes turned out to be just as challenging. I did my Sabbath from Friday afternoon to Satuday afternoon, and I found myself fidgety with free time, feeling as though I should be doing something productive. My two main blocks of time spent on the Internet on the outskirts of both ends of this 24-hour time period were spent on legitimate activities, i.e. not on social media sites. Before I began my Sabbath, I attempted to make my schedule for next fall, which took a lot longer than I was expecting and hoping. I needed to use the Internet for this to find out what classes were offered when, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pay a little bit of attention to reviews on ratemyprofessor.com when looking at classes. After my Sabbath ended, I again used the internet for academic reasons, visiting the library databases to find, save, and print articles that I could review on our bus ride in hopes of getting an early start on a research paper for one of my journalism classes.
I committed to my Sabbath and did well except for one time Friday night when I forgot and checked my Twitter. I found myself looking at tweets, wondering why there were so many I hadn’t seen before I remember that I hadn’t been on for a while for a reason and needed to get off. Honestly, I missed Twitter a little more than I probably should have. I love being able to share funny moments with my teammates via Twitter, or even to say something as simple as “Alumni game #goherd,” which I tweeted after my Sabbath ended on Saturday. I didn’t really mind not being on Facebook too much; when I spend so much time with my team, I can go a day without seeing what they’re doing online and still feel connected. A lot of people I’m friends with on Facebook are not people I am genuinely interested in keeping up with, to be honest, but that is to be expected when you have close to 1,000 “friends.” There are a few from back home that I talk to on Facebook regularly, but one day honestly did not make me feel disconnected to them.
I found that not being able to use the internet was more of an inconvenience than it was a frustrating thing. Like I said, I didn’t mind too much being disconnected from my social networks. I am a big D.C. United fan, and usually I follow their games online, but Friday night I couldn’t. However, my friend was at the game, so he texted me updates and funny happenings from the night; in a way being disconnected brought me more connected, which is ironic. I really felt apprehensive about not being able to do research on the Internet; I wanted to print out those articles and get my work done sooner than I was able to considering my Sabbath. When there is really no other option to find the information you need, I don’t think constant use of the internet is a bad thing. In reality, in this day and age, you can’t really avoid the Internet. I also don’t see a problem in enjoying tweeting; if it’s a technology that can bring us closer to people, I think that’s great, and I shouldn’t feel ridiculed or ashamed of liking to use it.
My experience with this assignment surprised me. I definitely was expected greater feelings of detachment by logging off from Twitter and Facebook, and I never thought I would feel apprehensive to get onto Marshall’s databases and use their Internet resources to complete tasks on my to-do list. It was hard to refrain from using the Internet, both because of the habits I have and because of the needs I had, but it certainly wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.