Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On spending too much time in front of a computer

In our modern society, a lot of people spend too much time in front of computers. There are many ways to spend this time (some write books, some play Solitaire, some watch videos on YouTube, some do all of the above). I’m not one to judge – I’m one of the victims. In an ideal world I’d be much better at turning the computer off and do, I don’t know, whatever people do when they are not on the computer. But it is not an ideal world.

However, that is not the point of this post. I’m not trying to solve the problem; I’m merely trying to explore it (not unlike my approach to the Middle East conflict). What happens when you spend too much time in front of a computer? (Here, my supervisor would also demand I ask a WHY-question, or, as they are known among my co-students, a WTF-question. However, my supervisor does not supervise my blog.)

There are all sorts of well-documented physical problems – arms, backs, eyes and necks are prime targets for the injuries that might occur as a result of hours and hours in front of the screen. In addition there is a problem that is related – it’s not what you do, but what you don’t do – lack of exercise and fresh air can cause serious health issues.

However, there are also some lesser documented, non-physical problems that might occur as results of today’s extensive usage of computers. I’m talking about the mental issues.

Sometimes after having spent too much time in front of a screen I find myself behaving differently “IRL” – in real life. For instance, before adding the final ingredient in the cake batter, I wonder if I should not “save” the “document” before putting it in the oven – just in case something goes wrong. Or when I find myself doing something embarrassing, like walking into a glass door, I desperately look for the “undo”-button (Ctrl+Z). Or I wonder how I can express my feelings without Facebook’s lifesaver: the “like”-button (“Arr, this be pleasin’ to me eye!”).

My suggestion is that someone engages in thorough research on this subject immediately, since it’s important to know how technology affects us on an everyday basis. There is a definite gap in the research, a gap we cannot afford to keep open much longer. Someone needs to take this problem seriously, and in order to avoid further delays to this vital research, they need to do so without Twittering about it to all their friends. I know this might seem radical – why must these researchers bravely go where no man has been (at least for a couple of years)? Because no matter how many times we hit F5, this is one page that will not refresh. The answer can only be found when someone finally has the courage to address those WTF-questions.


Watery Tart said...

You need research? Hey. I'm a researcher! I think to answer these questions I need... hmmm... let's see... at least 5 qualified research staff, an additional 10 interviewers (because though we COULD post the survey online, we suspect people who answer online surveys differ from those who do not in a systematic way) Probably abou $15,000 in travel expenses so the supervisor (me) can go to all the sites where interviewers are collecting data to verify they are doing their jobs... Indirect costs... postage... computers for each of the full time staff, plus laptops for the interviewers so they can give interviewees the option to do it online rather than talking to a PERSON. I think I can do this for you for about 1.5 million dollars.

[LOVED this, Mari]

M.J. Nicholls said...

At the computer we come alive. We express ourselves in witty and coherent ways and become popular among others. Plus, we have access to basically every piece of information about everything ever.

If only someone would invent an online toilet and food dispenser. I would never have to leave the house.

J. M. Hunter said...

You have to leave the house to go to the toilet? Do you have an outhouse?


My entire existence could literally be virtual. I can't think of one single reason why I would need to leave the house except that I haven't as of yet found a beer delivery service. Wine, yes. Beer, no.

J. M. Hunter said...

A ctrl+z for life would be handy. Then I could undo the time I thought somebody of my body type would look supercute in a belted jumpsuit.

Actually, I think online personalities are not unlike driving personalities. Kind of like when someone cuts you off and you flip them off, so they honk at you, so you yell at them, etc... In real life, you would never flip someone off for running into you and then escalate it into a string of expletives. We do it because we are "protected" from any kind of real exchange with the other person. We're anonymous (unless that other person turns out to be your high school guidance counselor, as was the case when I was a young un, which is why since that time I no longer succumb to road rage). Online, we have the same kind of buffer. We may do and say things - often rude things - to others that we never would in real life because there is a buffer between us and the other person. Not all people do this, but that's just one observation I have had, especially in a virtual work environment.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love it! I desperately need an undo command for my life.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Cruella Collett said...

Tami - I don't doubt that you're up for the task, but you know the drill: first get the grant, then we'll talk ;)

M.J. - that made me think of Michel Houellebecq... I'm not sure the world is ready to go there just yet...

J.M. - (you guys have opposite first initials - that's funny!) I not only believe you are right about the online personalities, I know it. How do I know it? That is for me to know and for everyone else (except Jon Almås) to wonder. A joke that is completely wasted on anyone not Norwegian... Actually, it probably is wasted on most Norwegians too. It's in fact probably wasted on anyone not me... Well, at least I got a good laugh out of it..! (I laughed at the outhouse and the jumpsuit too)

Elizabeth - wouldn't that just make life so much simpler? I could use a Ctrl+Alt+Del every once in a while too...

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I have been known to log out of my dreams - strange, considering I rarely log out of anything else.

Cruella Collett said...

Natasha - that's a new one! Clever, though, so no one will be able to access them (do you also have a password to your dreams?)

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