Good news and bad news: the internet

I’ve found that if I park myself in the northwest corner chair of the living room, I have reliable internet connections from someone’s wi-fi. The good news.

I’ve found that if I park myself in the northwest corner of the living room, I have reliable internet connections from someone’s wi-fi. The bad news.

Good is obvious: no trips to the coffee shop down a long windy ice-covered street just to check email or send something out that is bigger than I can thumb-type on my iPhone. Bad because it’s nearly ten a.m. and I’ve now scanned the whole NY Times, but haven’t journaled, meditated, or done any writing.

The last several months, staying here in the emptied-out, not-yet sold house in MN, I’ve been on a kind of internet fast. It’s like an old-fashioned Catholic boyhood Lenten fast (the way I’d have done it, anyway): okay, you can have chocolate, but only once every third day. In my case, it’s when the local library branch is open, or else, again, down five blocks to the coffee shop. (The iPhone in theory has internet service, but it’s slow and painful sans a good wi-fi connection. The only thing that’s worse is AT&T’s phone service, which results in every call to my wife ending with that sudden dead “call dropped” thing. The other day we were actually in the process of saying goodnight when that happened and I called back just because I refuse to let AT&T win.)

But back to the internet. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the mental worlds we create for ourselves. In a way, it’s the question of to what degree we can deliberately create a “self.” I think we can (within some biological and biographical limits), and that much of the history of “education” has always been about the necessity of being deliberate in the creation of that self. While of course the concept is bastardized nowadays by the business universe, when they call the creation of their corporate identity “branding,” that’s not so different than what ancient Greek politicians used to do when they studied the art of “rhetoric.” That, too, was about branding, or the creation of an internally consistent public self that might be — or might not at all be — a reflection of their inner reality and likely behavior. (Think, “compassionate conservative” or “I’m a uniter, not a divider.”)

In a way, spending time browsing the net is a way of contributing some bricks to the building of that self. But what kind of self do you get?

The most obvious answer to the question is to look at the content you browse. I doubt that’s much help, though. I don’t feel badly about a few hours a month spent on the NY Times, for instance. But neither do I feel badly about a few hours on crap. In fact, crap may be as good or better, partly because I need creative input and sometimes nothing’s as creativity-fostering as crap. (Besides, who defines what’s crap? I don’t think is all that different than reading the political news — both are psychologically the same drama — people flogging each other, and I’d much rather watch people flogging each other for nice, healthy, honest sexual thrills than expose myself to fifteen seconds of the lies of Rush or O’Reilly.)

But the more important issue may be the amount of time spent on the net. Or on anything, for that matter — do I really wish I were the kind of guy who devoted sixty-five hours a year to washing my Lexus? (I don’t even really wish I were the kind of guy who had a Lexus.)

I do, however, wish I were the kind of guy who did this morning what I said I’d do last night, after a day of getting nothing done on my book. (The one with the looming deadline.) That guy would be writing now. I’m supposed to have finished the chapter on social intelligence and leadership yesterday, but all I’ve done is read research and scout for ideas.

So I’ll post this. I’m at least able to appreciate the net connection for that. (Though those healthy and delicious muffins down at Fine Grind are sure tempting right now.)

Besides, as you (if there’s any actual “you” out there) may have noticed, I’m just starting to feel my way with this blog thing. The problem with going off to use the coffee shop internet is it’s an awfully noisy place to blog.


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