Zero Tolerance


I am looking into my computer, trying to get some proofreading done. I am having trouble concentrating, finding just about any reason possible to stop looking at my computer. This is perhaps because the average sentence length in the academic paper I’m proofreading comes in around 89 words.

There’s an outside chance that my trouble concentrating is due to the fact that my work email, my personal email, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are all open in my browser. The Office is playing on the TV behind me and the cat has decided that she wants to sit on my shoulder so that we can pretend to be Greybeard the pirate and his cat, Smithers. Again.   

I get up from my computer to check my phone and while I’m there I check my email inbox, which I have been staring at in a tab on my computer for the last ninety minutes. It’s then I realize that I might have a problem.

I shut everything down. Twenty-five seconds later I open Facebook and Twitter to make sure I’m not missing anything. Appalled at myself, I decide to go for a walk. In nature. With no phone. I slip my notebook and a pen into the pocket of my track pants and I walk out the door. I will not lie, I look back at my phone several times before I get out the door. I may or may hear it calling to me as I close the door behind me.

I am alarmed at how my technology has taken over aspects of my life. My attention span is already so short it can be an Ewok in the next Star Wars movie, and technology beats my productivity to death with a shovel. I have made rules for myself. The primary of which is that when I do a writing session there is no internet at all for me. This works because it is a zero tolerance system, much like the Czech drinking and driving policy. Which also works.

It’s when I allow myself some wiggle room that I am screwed in a big way.

But that’s not all.

After half an hour of technology free time, my brain begins to form opinions and ideas of its own. What it finds there is scary.   

I get very angry with my students when they look at their phones in class. I have often mentioned to them that they are half in the real world and half in the virtual world the whole time. But so in the last meeting that I was forced to suffer through, I posted four tweets and liked about twelve Facebook posts. The trick is looking like you’re taking notes.

I can’t blame my students really. They have never had the experience of not having a phone. They don’t know what it’s like to be unreachable for a period of time. When I tell students taking a test that they have to turn off their phones for 60 minutes, the looks of inconceivable fear and dawning horror tell a story in themselves. While they may not know any better, I do.

That’s not all.

I look at my phone so often that I am convinced that a month after the zombies come I’ll still be doing Facebook update checks. I mean, if I’m still, you know…. In any case, in the past forty minutes I have reached into an empty pocket to check a phone that is not there.  

Action needs to be taken and I decide on a zero tolerance policy. I will have two and a half hours in the day to stare longingly in the internet. An hour in the morning and afternoon, and a half hour in the evening. That should give me time to do everything I need to do and some extra time to go down some Wikipedia rabbit holes.

When I get home, I feel that I have suffered enough and go to my phone as if it had gestated in a family member’s uterus. It’s amazing to come home to check my messages, rather than just being available 100% of the time at a click. I feel like it’s 1990. Another thing the students will never understand.   

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