Thursday, December 30, 2004

 

NYT: Internet Use Said to Cut Into TV Viewing and Socializing.

By definition, I'm sure all you raging internet junkies already saw this New York Times piece today.

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 29 - The average Internet user in the United States spends three hours a day online, with much of that time devoted to work and more than half of it to communications, according to a survey conducted by a group of political scientists.

The survey found that use of the Internet has displaced television watching and a range of other activities. Internet users watch television for one hour and 42 minutes a day, compared with the national average of two hours, said Norman H. Nie, director of the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society, a research group that has been exploring the social consequences of the Internet.

"People don't understand that time is hydraulic," he said, meaning that time spent on the Internet is time taken away from other activities.
Ain't that the truth. I can't even begin to tell you much time my self-love to internet pornography has taken away from my previous favorite activity, self-love to VCR pornography.

According to the study, an hour of time spent using the Internet reduces face-to-face contact with friends, co-workers and family by 23.5 minutes, lowers the amount of time spent watching television by 10 minutes and shortens sleep by 8.5 minutes.
Yeah, but for me, the internet's reduced my face-to-face contact with annoying bookstore cashiers by 15 minutes, the time I've spent in that special section behind hanging beads at the dollar video store by 22 minutes, and the time I spent watching Judy Woodruff and Keith Olbermann insinuate that Paul Wolfowitz is a baby-eating blood-cult Zionist by a whole whopping 75 minutes.

As for my now twelve minutes of sleep each night, well, okay; that part really sucks.
The researchers acknowledged that the study data did not answer questions about whether Internet use itself strengthened or weakened social relations with one's friends and family.
The internet's been a bit of a double-edged sword for me. For one, I actually keep in more constant daily contact with friends via email. Of course, this blog has kinda changed that, since one of the major points of creating it was to stop swamping all my friends with constant daily emails. Still, given that most of my friends and family live far away from here, I really couldn't manage my relationships without the internet; not without being on the phone for three hours a night, that is.
Over all, 57 percent of Internet use was devoted to communications like e-mail, instant messaging and chat rooms, and 43 percent for other activities including Web browsing, shopping and game playing.
Okay, I'm sorry, but "e-mail" is not internet use. E-mail takes the place of a phone, or writing a letter, or walking down the hall, but it's not something unique. Sure, the volume of email may create a qualitative effect, but unless you're a power user like myself, I can't really say it fits the description.

Web browsing, however, is most definitely a new activity, and one that pretty much dominates my life. I'm a slave to the internet. I find it very difficult to stay out of touch, unless I'm on vacation (and even then I get antsy, wondering what's going on in the world).

I still maintain that society hasn't even come close to coming to grips with the internet. It's going to take another generation or two for its ubiquitous nature to really start changing the human dynamic. Browsing, blogging, e-commerce: these are all symptoms, manifestations of a central core that will change life as we know it.

Okay, I know that sounds like a lot of 1990's, dot-com bubble propaganda. But I'm not saying that all this change is necessarily positive. Some will be negative, and most will be fairly mundane and neutral.

Some examples?

Who buys encyclopedias anymore? I grew up with a nice leatherbound set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias. Today, they're merely shelf decorations, a cosmetic indulgence.

Think of how many times you've been at work, or at home, and had a casual discussion with a friend where a point or a factoid was in contention. Now, think back ten years ago. How did you settle the issue? You either didn't, or you had to look it up in a library. Libraries themselves required a special skill set. I remember the annual visit to the school library to hear the librarian tell us all about the Dewey Decimal System, and how to use the card catalog. Who needs to know any of that now?

Of course, today, you get in an argument with someone, you Google it, and voila, you've got your answer. You want to find a book? Search Amazon, or read the reviews of a thousand newspapers.

The trouble we're into today is that the educational skillsets imparted into today's youth-- and still fossilized within the minds of their parents and grandparents-- is still setup for the pre-internet world.

I will be the first person to argue that it's important to learn dates and timelines and language in school, and that you can't just focus on math and science "in order to beat 'dem pesky Koreans!" However, we must begin to appreciate that the reason we learn information nowadays is not, in fact, to give us the answers to questions, but instead teach us how to ask the right questions.

The internet is full of garbage and falsehoods and dead links and oh-so-much pornography. At first glance many people, especially the intellectual elites invested in the old way of knowledge, throw up their hands and dismiss it entirely.

For me, nothing better encapsulates this problem than the person who can't find anything on Google, or another search engine. Not only do they not know the right keywords to search under, they refuse to learn the very distinct language of the search engine, the understanding that allows someone to look at a page of fifty hits and realize which ones are the most promising. No amount of metacrawler A.I. is going to do that for you-- you have to learn how to filter information by yourself. But I'm still shocked at how few people ever bother to learn that skill, a skill that will only continue to grow over time.

This structure of knowledge, this method of learning has been built up for generations. It's not going to change overnight, but it will-- it must-- change. And those who don't adapt will be left at a severe competitive disadvantage in the decades to come.

If that means I've got to spend a few extra hours on the internet looking up barely legal Sailor Moon pornography, then I'm just the man to do it.

Comments:
Good to see you're willing to take one for the team.
 
What, the Sailor Moon stuff? Or suffering through the New York Times?

The former is all sugar, the latter nothing but salt. . .
 
Just a guess, having only read the Times, I would wager that both are equally disturbing.
 
I think time is more pneumatic than hydraulic. If you plan right, you can compress it to your advantage.
 
I had to comment, because I started a blog due to everyone getting irritated at my 24/7 politics (and ignoring my emails.) Now I have a nice blog that everyone can ignore ... but still doesn't it feel better? Emails just disappears, as if your words went out to to some black hole (no response.) At least now, I can go look at my loverly blog.
 
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