Virtually Divided

brain-piechartIt’s difficult to remember a time when the only thing that could distract you from work or dinner or your favorite TV show was the phone. And I mean the kind that plugged into the wall and only made one sound. Ever. It didn’t play the theme from Django, or the latest from Kanye, Beyonce or LMFAO. It just rang. And the only way to determine who was calling was to pick it up.

Getting things done is much more complicated now that in addition to your antiquated landline phone, your mobile phone with its endless news alerts, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter notifications, email alerts, software updates and game requests acts as a HUGE distraction. Add that to your desktop computer (if you are chained to one like I am) with its email alerts, IMs, meeting requests, software updates, etc., etc. and you may start to feel the urge to reach for the Xanax. Or a hammer.

It’s cool that we are able to do SO many things at once now. It really is. I can today—sitting in the Eastern Standard Time Zone—work simultaneously on a project with someone on the Pacific coast. I can grab the laptop to attend a meeting or escape to anywhere where there is wireless internet and access network files from the office.

But with all of the good that it brings, I can’t help but wonder: What harm is it doing? Are our brains going in so many different directions that no ONE thing gets the full attention that it deserves? Are we multitasking so often that we are going to forget how to sit still for as long as it takes to see ONE thing through to completion? Or is everything destined to be divided and done in pixel parts from here to eternity? Because obviously the virtual world is not only here to stay… but to go… with US anywhere we wish to take it.

I don’t know about you, but my personal time has become severely fractured too. I no longer just watch TV or eat dinner or have a conversation or look at Facebook or write. In a typical evening I might do all of the above at once. If I have a favorite show, I might push everything else to the side… laundry, dishes, conversation… to block off that 30 minutes or an hour to “relax and focus” on the entertaining dialog between some beloved characters, only to discover that I can’t keep my hands off my iPhone.

I used to only pick it up at commercials to play a game, return an email or troll Facebook for juicy gossip. But I’ve noticed that increasingly so, I am fiddling with it during the very show that I once tried so religiously to protect. I cannot stop multitasking. Last night I must have gotten OUT of bed six times (I am not kidding) to do something just because it “occurred to me” to do so. Well, that, and I feared I might forget. That is a real fear now. That I’ll forget.

Gee, I wonder why the risk of forgetfulness is so much higher now. We all like to joke around and attribute it to aging… but I myself, think the more likely culprit is a divided mind. After sliding back INTO bed for the sixth time, I finally told myself to JUST STOP. Crawl under the covers and STAY there. Do not pick up the phone. Do not surf the channels. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just freaking SLEEP! OK!?! That is at least ONE time when I am doing only ONE thing at a time.

Of Mice and Hammers

I killed a mouse in my house last night… with a hammer. It was a little disturbing at first, bits and pieces of it flying all over my kitchen and raining down upon me like shrapnel after an explosion as I lifted the hammer high in the air in order to strike again and again. But I’m not gonna lie, it was also a little invigorating.

Why the hammer you ask? Isn’t that a little overkill for something so small? Well, I just wanted to make sure it was dead. I couldn’t stand the thought of it lying on the top of my garbage can, half alive and suffering. Such uncertainty could keep a person up at night you know.

Now, before you go passing judgment or reporting me or my blog to PETA… I’ll tell you that it wasn’t cute, furry and capable of speaking Russian like Fievel the Disney mouse. It was a Logitech mouse. And I had reached the end of my virtual rope.

I should have been mad at the bank who YET AGAIN changed their security measures and thus made ME change MINE. Why does the bank feel it necessary to change things every 5 minutes anyway?

Or I could have been angry with my computer because it’s getting up there in years and painfully slow. It doesn’t exactly snap to attention quite as quickly as I would prefer.

So I lost it. And I took out my rage on an innocent, little grey mouse who didn’t deserve what it got. I didn’t bash it to smithereens right away. I actually just set it down on my desk a bit too hard… and when I tried to revive it… nothing happened. It just sat there… lifeless… the red light on it’s optic sensor forever darkened.

And THEN, I was no longer angry with the bank or my PC’s sluggish processor… I was angry at myself. Livid to be more exact. Mad because I had let my stupid temper get the better of me and now I was crippled and mouse-less. So I placed the dying mouse on the rug, took out my hammer and finished it off by smashing it into a million, tiny pieces.

Not yet done with my computer work, I snuck next door and borrowed a mouse from my mother. I rushed into my parents’ house, stealthily snagged THEIR mouse and declared: “I’m borrowing this! My mouse is broken! Will return it in the morning!”  I then rushed right back out the door like I was fleeing the scene of a crime.  Also, before they had the chance to ask any questions.

Like I said… it did feel good. Who doesn’t fantasize now and then about violently destroying a piece of the very computer equipment by which we often feel enslaved?

Happy computing, y’all!

Out of Touch

Last night I was perfectly content sitting on my couch and NOT multitasking. I was doing one thing and one thing only. Watching Seinfeld re-runs. I was not on the phone or the laptop Facebooking, Twittering or blogging. I was just sitting there—like a tree stump dressed in grey sweatpants and a weathered In & Out Burger t-shirt—and it was glorious.

It was at this point that I saw a commercial for the newest ipad. The commercial showed a woman about my age, in the Apple store, looking at the shiny new gadget the salesman had just presented to her. She cautiously grasped the ipad like it was the Holy Grail and the moment it was in her hands, she was immediately transported to all of these exotic locales.

She traveled to remote sun-washed beaches, gourmet, five-star restaurants, rockin’ night clubs, casinos and both National and International landmarks. And all the while, she never looked up from that damn ipad. Apple’s selling point being that this device can go with you wherever, whenever and you can stay connected.

WTF?!?! Helloooo!!! You're in P-A-R-A-D-I-S-E. LOOK AROUND!!!

I’m sorry, am I the only one who has the desire to visit remote and exotic sun-washed beaches, gourmet, five-star restaurants, rockin’ night clubs, casinos and both National and International landmarks for the sole purposes of getting away from AND staying OUT of touch with the world? I mean, there’s a reason that the freakin’ screen savers and wallpapers on these things have pictures of Fiji and Mt. Kilimanjaro on them. Duh.

Though perhaps that is the final irony here… The place in which we’ve arrived on the evolutionary ladder of man vs. technology… If you’re toiling at your desk… you dream of Fiji or of standing in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. But if you’re actually IN Fiji or standing in the shadow of Kilimanjaro… you want to be at the office?!

I don’t know about you, but if I had the time and resources to travel to far-flung corners of the globe and visit the types of exclusive destinations that this chick was inhabiting in the ipad commercial… I would take that flat, wireless, super-sleek, state-of-the-art, hi-speed, touch-screen piece of crap capable of keeping me “connected” 24/7… and fling it as far as it would go.