Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Finding Quiet in a Loud, Busy World

The Internet is one of many distractions we have today. It is rare to see someone sitting still without taking in information through the TV or the Internet, both of which are literally and figuratively noisy.

Paradoxically, that’s part of what I like about being behind a blog. Writing, for me, is a quiet activity. It helps me tune out the rest of the noise and indulge my own thoughts. During the moments I work on Life After Web, I am wholly focused. Even though it is time spent on the Internet, it is not time spent absorbing information. Sometimes I start on paper before nearing my computer. My time is spent thinking, crafting, and sharing my own voice with the world (at least, anyone that happens to find me).

In his essay “Out There in the Middle of the Buzz,” Bill McKibben discusses the effects of technology on our society. He says, “Quiet, solitude, calm: These are no longer automatic parts of the human experience. You have to fight…hard for them,” (p. 161). Humans are losing the ability to experience the natural world around them. We are tied to cell phones, laptops, iPods, anything that keeps us “in touch.” In actuality, the drive to stay connected is isolating.

McKibben later says, “We live in the first moment when humans receive more of their information secondhand than first; instead of relying primarily on contact with nature and with each other, we rely primarily on the prechewed, on someone else’s experience,” (p. 161). Writing forces me to think about the topic at hand, decide how I feel about it, and what emotions, if any, it stirs within.

Since we are surrounded by technology, we must fight for quiet moments in new ways. While my blog still connects me to the virtual world, the act of writing for my blog keeps me grounded in my own thoughts.

McKibben, Bill. “Out There in the Middle of the Buzz.” The Wired Society. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1999.

Monday, February 26, 2007

and the Oscar goes to… Al Gore?

First Ronald Reagan went from actor to politician, then Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Jesse Ventura. Perhaps Al didn’t get the memo. He went from politician to working on a now Oscar-winning documentary.

In a world where crossover is becoming the norm, country singers turn pop, musicians become actors, actors become politicians. Is our society becoming more well-rounded, or are we trying to be jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none?

I realize this has nothing to do with the Internet, but it does seem to say something about our society. Perhaps people are becoming more comfortable with stepping outside their traditional roles to try something new. Perhaps, too, we are becoming more accepting of those role changes.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why Blog?

Blogs fascinate me. As yet another interesting commentary on our society, many employ blogs as a means to express themselves. There is no consistency. Some blogs are filled with facts and research, some are personal diatribes, some are strictly business.

In Seth Godin’s recent post, If no one reads your post, does it exist?, he argues “the act of writing a blog changes people.” While I’m new at this, I agree with his point. Having a blog means you must have something to say, and you must say it well. What better way to learn about yourself?

Nowhere to Hide: Europe May Ban False Web Identities

Europeans may lose the right to create Web and email accounts under false names according to a New York Times article last week (Europe’s Plan to Track Phone and Net Use).

Creating an email account under a pseudonym is common practice, particularly for creating a catch-all for junk email. Several European countries are considering making this practice illegal in response to the terrorist bombings in Spain and England. Some of the possible laws would require all email addresses be traceable to a real name.

What effect does this have on Internet users? Should users be required to divulge their real names for email accounts?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Internet Helps Post-Traumatic Stress Sufferers?

The Associated Press reported on February 19 that a former employee of IBM was suing the company for firing him due to participating in chat rooms while at work. (See article,
Man Sues IBM Over Adult Chat Room Firing

The man claims that he visits the chat rooms to help relieve post-traumatic stress from his time in Vietnam. He says that the stress caused him to become "'a sex addict, and with the development of the Internet, an Internet addict'" and believes he should be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Read the article, it's entertaining, but is Internet addiction a reality? Psych Central looks at the issue from several angles on its website at

It points out that the Internet itself isn't addictive, but that some people may exhibit addictive behavior when it comes to Internet use. Technology is merely one more way for a person to avoid their family or problems they may be having. They could just as easily retreat to other activities, such as reading, which may or may not be recognized as addictive.

They also note that a good deal of time spent on the Internet is spent socializing through activities like checking email, chatting, or gaming. Whereas teenagers used to spend hours on the phone, perhaps they are migrating to the Internet to socialize.

As a society, we are quick to find something or someone to blame for any problem. I think the Internet cannot be blamed for addiction. If there is, in fact, a problem with Internet addiction, I think the real problem lies in the user's subject of avoidance.

If you aren't convinced and think you, or someone you know, may have an Internet addiction, try a quiz like the one by Net Addiction.

If all else fails, find an attorney that lets clients sue the sky for being blue.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Careful, Flames Can Burn (Relationships, that is)

Social interaction has certainly changed over the years. Sarcasm, for instance, is commonplace in many conversations, but this wasn’t always the case. Now that the Internet provides a way to communicate by typing, all of the cues provided in speech and body language are lost.

One commonly used statistic is that in communication only 7 percent of the meaning is gained from the actual words. Roughly 38 percent comes from vocal cues and the remaining 55 percent from facial expressions. This implies that only very basic literal meaning can be gleaned from a typed message.

Who cares? Well, the person you just emailed might. In a New York Times essay, Daniel Goleman explains, “if we are typing while agitated, the absence of information on how the other person is responding makes the prefrontal circuitry for discretion more likely to fail” (Flame First, Think Later: New Clues to E-Mail Misbehavior, February 20). This means your message may be interpreted differently than you intended. You may have inadvertently offended the recipient because you were unable to alter your speech based on their reactions.

Routine communications have changed with technology. Take the absence of nonverbal cues and add the factor of people feeling less inhibited behind their computers, then there is a whole new dynamic to human interaction.

Before you hit send, read your message to make certain it is clear. It’s just good practice anyway.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How Technology Has Ruined Candy Hearts

With Valentine’s Day in the rearview mirror, I’ve been working my way through candy hearts as a mid-afternoon snack. You know the ones- little, colored, sugary hearts with red lettered endearments like “sweetie” or “my girl.”

At least, that’s what they used to say. Now they say, “Email Me,” “URA Tiger,” “ILU,” and “Fax Me.” Fax me? Even the candy heart has not been able to ignore technology. What I assume is “I Love You” has been shortened to a brief three-letter acronym, and while I’m ever so pleased to know IMA tiger, did we really need to replace the bygone sentiments of candy hearts? Perhaps society no longer understands phrases like “Be Mine” or “Call Me.” You can call me old-fashioned, but I think abbreviations should be reserved for text messages, not invading the food industry.

I wouldn’t have bothered to mention any of this, however, my last morsel this afternoon beckoned me to “Go Girl.” So there you have it. One of Many Ways to See Presidential Candidates Online

They all have their own websites. They are announcing their intentions through YouTube. They are making a presence in Second Life (unofficially). No, I’m not speaking of your local teens. These are your 2008 presidential candidates.

As the Internet has become a popular means of communication, politicians are taking advantage. There will, no doubt, be more information about the candidates available to Internet users than they ever cared to know.

A site to watch is, which will follow the Internet’s impact on the upcoming election. According to an InformationWeek article last week, TechPresident to Cover How Internet and Candidates Mix, topics will include how the candidates are using the Internet, how the public’s Internet activities will affect the campaign, and investigative blogs.’s blog is already in full force along with amateur photographs and links to each candidate’s website. As I follow the election on the Internet, I’m left with just one question: will my television still be overtaken?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Web 2.0: Information/Interaction On Demand

My first exposure to the Internet was in 1995 when a friend of mine said, "this is soooo cool" and proceeded to summon a description for that night's episode of Friends. She was right- it was cool, but it also seemed horribly pointless. That information was both useless to me and, had I needed it, readily available in the newspaper and in TV commercials.

Of course, since then I've turned to the Internet for research on many occasions. In fact, being able to find the information I need at any time from my home proves quite useful.

Web 2.0 brings users to the forefront of this information hub by putting web content in the users hands.

A WTF (Where’s the Fire?) entry on Technorati explains Web 2.0 as being filled with user generated content. “[T]he owners of the website have simply provided a platform for us, the users to add content from our side,” it says. This brings a wealth of possibilities (and arguably junk) as you can find both facts and commentary on any given topic, provided you are able to discern the difference.

More than merely information on demand, the Internet has shifted to interaction on demand. Between MySpace, Second Life, World of Warcraft, and all variations thereof, users can find myriad ways to commune with others around the globe.

While this may have advantages, has it contributed to the demise of casual conversations in public spaces? After all, forward thinking elevators in Douglas Adams' The Restaurant at the End of the Universe eradicated "all the tedious chatting, relaxing and making friends that people were previously forced to do while waiting for elevators."

The full effects of the Internet on human interaction remain to be seen. It will certainly make for an interesting sociological study.

For more on Web 2.0:
Wikipedia entry
Video from Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Job Seekers Need Not Leave Second Life

An advertising agency plans to recruit employees through Second Life according to In a Virtual World, an Actual Job May Be Waiting, an article posted by Reuters yesterday. I’ll wait while you re-read that.

Ready to continue? Okay.

For quite a while job seekers have enjoyed the ability to search and apply for jobs via the Internet thanks to sites like Careerbuilder and Monster. TMP Worldwide is going further by planning job fairs in a virtual world called Second Life.

The idea is that the recruiter will use an avatar to interview job candidates through their avatars. (For those unfamiliar with Second Life, an avatar is the virtual character created by a user- kind of like playing dolls, but for grown-ups with computers and evidently too much time on their hands.)

Avatar-to-avatar interviewing spawns a slew of questions: Does standard interview attire still apply? Will there be a specialty Second Life clothing store for navy blue pinstripe suits and pearls?

More importantly, can the recruiter get a good sense of the interviewee’s real life personality and skills through a Second Life avatar? Assuming the interviewee must reveal their true identity as the interview process progresses, how do they separate their real life from their Second Life?

If you partake in a Second Life interview, please let me know how it works. As for me, I’m still here in my chair and there is mounting evidence that I can stay here for a very long time.

Related Links:
In a Virtual World, an Actual Job May Be Waiting
Second Life

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Internet: From Resource to Pastime

I have a love/hate relationship with the Internet. I love the quick information; I hate the amount of time I spend glued to my computer screen.

Yet here I am, day-after-day, using the Web and email to conduct most of my professional business. Then I go home and, you guessed it, get on the computer to pay bills, check email, or enjoy my friends’ and family’s latest adventures as posted on their Web sites.

When did the Internet change from resource to pastime? Why do people choose to socialize on the Internet, rather than in person? I send emails to colleagues, some of whom are mere steps away. Equally shocking, they email me back. Are we avoiding the exercise of leaving our chairs? Perhaps we are worried that the walk will take so much time we won’t possibly be able to finish our work.

The Internet allows us to avoid nearly anything. We can avoid standing in lines by shopping online. We can avoid calling “loved ones” by posting an online photo album. We can avoid the brisk morning walk down the driveway in our robes by checking our RSS feeds.

Where the Internet used to be a convenience, it is now a vehicle for avoidance. Presumably as innovation continues, I may never have to leave my office-issued chair. Lucky me.