My digital consumption diary told me what I pretty much already knew: that the demands of my job require that I be online for most of the workday. The news never stops. Then, on top of that, I choose to be online for much of my non-work day, whether it’s to listen to NPR One on my commute or to stream an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with my wife after the kids have gone to bed.
Overall, the leisure portion of my online use doesn’t seem so obsessive to me, because really I’m doing a lot of the same things I used to do, only now I’m using streaming apps instead of over-the-air radio or TV. That said, I do spend more time than I should messaging with people over iMessage or Facebook Messenger. Curbing that activity would improve my quality of life, I’m sure.
For a brief time, when the mobile Internet was new, having access to news all the time and on the go was novel and exciting: Read tomorrow’s news today! There’s no going back now that we’ve come to expect news as it happens. But a big part of me misses the days when there was one deadline per day and I didn’t know what my competition had until the next morning. Back then, there was a much clearer delineation between my work life and my life life. Now, not so much.
I do think we’re hooked on information technology, and I’m conflicted about it. My hope for my children is that many of the negative aspects of tech obsession – distracted driving, repetitive stress injuries and political division, to name just a few – will become quaint by the time they become adults. Hopefully by then, information will arrive more invisibly, in the background, freeing us from our dependence on the device in our pocket. We’ll still be hooked, but at least we won’t be staring down at our phones all the time.