Guilty clouds are raining on my Internet

by Mr. Sheehy

I had an interesting conversation with a buddy of mine from college this weekend, the only problem with it being that he kept asking me questions about topics where I have trouble controlling my tongue, so I babbled away and when my wife asked me what he said, I was able to relay his news far too fast. This is one of my issues with distance relationships and why I’m convinced, as I mentioned on my brother’s birthday, that hang around time is vital to forming lasting friendships. It’s also vital if anyone is to be my friend, since, as I showed this weekend, I am capable of dominating conversation. Oops.

But one thing we talked about is the stolen-time aspect of our Internet use, and I wonder if this is not the biggest difference between us and my students. I described to him my experience of reading blogs and working through my RSS reader, and I explained that whatever I am doing on the web, above me I always have that hovering cloud that makes me feel like I need to hurry up and get off-line, finish my tasks, and get on to more important things. He seconded my feeling, relating his experience with podcasts, of which he has collected more than he has time to hear (me too on that one).

My students, however, can burn hours on social networking sites and game sites without thought about it being too much. Granted I don’t think of that as a good thing, and when my wife and I were dorm parents over four teenagers and a 10-year old, we kept a 2-hour a night time limit on entertainment-computer use. I don’t regret that rule. But I get the guilty feeling after about 10 minutes, and I get it immediately when I’m reading anything random or if I begin to follow the hyperlink trail away where it leads. Like the day I spent 15 minutes of a planning period looking at a NYTimes flash presentation about pressures girls in high school face, or the day I stumbled across Curt Shilling’s blog, or today, when I discovered Frappr Maps through CogDogBlog. I had to play with it to figure out what it was and whether it might be useful or interesting to me or my students (actually, I also had to figure out why it was blocked by our filter – I’m still unsure how a map is adult and mature content). I also get it at home when I play with pictures – editing a shot of the girls, posting more photos to Flickr, staying up past anything I’d hope would be my bedtime. The cloud begins to rain on me: Guilty, guilty, guilty.

My guilt always concerns what might have been: I might have read something from the list of books I want to read, jumped on the research I have to do for graduate school, graded something that needs to be graded, slept. My students, likely because they’re still young, don’t seem to view it like this. In my mind, I figure they’re still deciding what is most important, since that is what I was doing at their age. I could blow hours watching college basketball and this year I didn’t even print a bracket for the NCAA tournament. I just hope that they are deciding what is most important, because the other frightening prospect is that they are being formed into mindless consumers, using time and then reaching milestones and wondering justifiably what they’ve done with their lives. If knowing what I want in my life is what brings me guilt when I’m online, so be it. I’ll take the cloud. I wouldn’t mind, however, if the cloud would allow me a few partly cloudy moments; I suppose this may come over time.

What I am worried about, however, is that my writing will get wet from that guilty cloud, since I craft and post it on the computer, and since it too distracts me from many other tasks. But if I made a list of the things I’d like to be doing with my time, writing is at the top, and if I sacrifice a few tasks along the way for the sake of writing, it’s like leaving work early for playing with my kids – easily worth it.

Apr 06 2007 056

And so here I sit, ready to dive into preparing the wiki presentation I am lined up for at this year’s TIE Conference, trying to pretend I don’t feel the sprinkles on my shoulders. But this posting has helped me, because otherwise I might be drenched in a torrent, like I would be if I were still catching up with the Monday Shot of the Week comments at Tracey Clark’s blog. Yes – I am improving!


Original image: ‘Computer Time‘ by: Thomas Hawk