Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Google’s firm grasp

If someone were to ask me if I would willing to lose the ability to maintain focus when reading long pieces of text, subject myself to countless distractions every hour of every day, and develop a compulsive tendency to check for bits of information that ultimately have no bearing on my daily life, would I agree to this proposition?

I don’t think any sane person would agree, yet my actions revealed that I had already agreed wholeheartedly.

After learning before work, I use to check my Blackberry for new Gmail messages. I checked again (perhaps maybe even a few times) when taking public transportation to my office. Once I got to my office, I used to rush through my work in order to once again access my Gmail and read through the latest postings from my 232 subscriptions on my Google Reader. Keeping my Gmail and Google Reader open throughout the entire work day, I subjected myself to constant distraction from my work. Commuting home each night, I would resume repetitively checking my Blackberry and pick it back up once again after putting the kids to bed. (Interestingly, I never had a problem turning my Blackberry off before Shabbos or limiting usage on Sunday when spending time with family).

I never considered just how much the Internet affected me until I read a book which detailed its impact on how the brain functioned and described phenomena that I inherently knew were true in my own life.

On Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan, I described the extent of my Internet usage to my wife and asked for her advice how to control this technology and not be controlled by it. Surprised by just how much I used the Internet throughout the course of the work day, my wife suggested that I begin by strictly limiting my access to Gmail and Google Reader to just three times - 10:00 am (30 minutes of access), 2:00 pm (1 hour of access), and 8:00 pm (15 minutes of access).  I started adhering to this new regimen this past Sunday and I have already noticed some immediate positive results. Limiting my access to Gmail and Google Reader has clearly shown me that I receive very few important e-mails and relevant Google Reader items each day. It makes me wonder why I needed to spend so much of my life for a miniscule amount of true information.

In a future posting, I will plan to share my observations of other benefits I notice from my attempt to reclaim my mind from Google’s firm grasp.


At March 28, 2012 at 3:59:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

That is a great reflection. And so true. I also see you emailed me the article between 2 and 3 p.m.!!

My geder for these things, at least right now, is that I don't keep the blackberry on me till I leave shul to go on the train and I don't really check the computer at home, except for work that I need to do. Though I will probably change those gedarim as the circumstances of my life change.

Did you read the article Neil Harris sent? Very similar theme.

At March 29, 2012 at 7:38:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

thanks for this update very true and very relevant.

At times I had a personal rule that i wouldn't use the computer/internet while @ home, in order to ensure my wife & children got the attention they deserved.

That rule fell apart when I started working from home if there were urgent things that needed to be finished. (and i still wanted to see my family that night)

But I now need to implement something like that again, both for my mental health at home and at work.

At March 29, 2012 at 2:08:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Dixie Yid: Thanks for sharing how you approach this inyan. One of my challenges is that I do actually have a legimate need for the Internet since I am finalizing up edits of the manuscript with my editor. Afterwards, it is off to the typsetter. All of this is done via e-mail.

I will have to read the article Neil sent. I haven't had the opportunity yet.

Yitz: I know what you mean about telework. It really blurs the boundaries between things and makes it very hard to put in place black and white rules for oneself.

At March 29, 2012 at 2:31:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great post. I struggle with constantly checking my email, too.
I found, however, when I got my BlackBerry just over a year ago, that it was much more useful to check and delete emails with it, than using the desktop gmail.
Also, I found that I was online much less while at home.

Google reader is something I'll check about twice a week, these days.

BTW- Now I know why you are not so quick to reply to emails these day. LOL

At March 29, 2012 at 2:46:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Neil: I knew it was becoming an issue for me once I started learning seforim too rapidly and without proper focus.

As an aside, I am curious if you only check Google Reader twice a week, how do you get your news primarily?

As for my not being so quick to reply to e-mails these days, I apologize.

At March 29, 2012 at 3:00:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

I only used Google Reader for J-blog.
This, by default, means that I comment less, part of the initial attraction for me was the interaction in comments with others. Of course, that's pretty much gone out the window (except for when someone emails me about a comment).

I, also, gave up being a news junkie and will listen to the radio on my way to and from work long enough to get the news. If I go out during the day to go walking, or to learn by myself I will also try to get a new update on the radio. If I really need to, I'll check CNN on my BlackBerry.

The 3-6 times I'll check my email during the day with my BlackBerry, I will also check Twitter. The few people I subscribe to are good about Tweeting any Jewish-related news.

At first I was very anti-Twitter, but I've found it good for quick-short news info.

At April 3, 2012 at 9:11:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

After a week strictly adhering to the schedule above, I have determined that my previously scheduled windows of time were much too stringent for me. Instead of 3 periods of access each day, I have decided to give myself 5 periods of access (15 minutes in duration) that I can take anytime during the day after 9:00 AM. This will still force to me better focus on my work and also make the better use of my time online.

At April 23, 2012 at 3:51:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was the book you read THE SHALLOWS by Nicholas Carr? If you haven't seen it, I suggest you read for reassurance that the Web, Google, etc., do destroy one's ability to concentrate.

I've so far avoided owning a cell phone, Blackberry, etc., because I am very distractable by nature and I don't need more challenges than I already have.

Moshe P.

At April 24, 2012 at 9:16:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yes it was. I thought the book was very good overall, although a little slow in places.


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