The Internet: Are You Ready to Disconnect?

The LA Times has an interesting article today on coffee shops in high-tech areas like San Francisco that have stopped offering wi-fi and/or ban laptop computing. The shops say, aside from the drain on revenue, the internet has become too much of a distraction. Customers seem fine with the decision,

"People come here because we don't offer it. They know they can get their work done and not get distracted," [Downbeat Cafe owner Dan Drozdenko said.]

It's true. The internet has turned into as much of a time-waster as a productive tool. [More..]

My biggest objection is probably the increase in ads. Both on news sites and even on you tube. If a video starts with an ad, I click off instantly on principle. And, if the audio or video starts playing automatically when I log onto some page, I never go back to the site for any reason. How intrusive.

It seems every time I log onto my e-mail or the internet these days, at least an hour goes by before I get back to what I should be doing.

Out of 300 or more e-mails a day, there's rarely more than 5 that are messages to me from people. The rest are from organizations, media outlets or companies promoting their own stuff. Even though I delete 95% of them, it's still a distraction.

By comparison, it takes a lot less time to go on Twitter and see if there's anything important happening. It takes only seconds to scroll through the 50 or so media outlets, organizations and people I follow, almost all of whom are going to have something new up within minutes of it happening. And when ads become prominent on Twitter, I'll probably find something else.

As a blogger, of course I have to use the internet. But it's become a cacophony out there and as annoying as it is useful.

Has the value of the internet as a constant presence in your life peaked? What do you use it for most these days?

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    I agree with a lot of that (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by ruffian on Sun Aug 08, 2010 at 05:34:55 PM EST
    I hate ads as much on the Internet as I do on tv or radio. I do anything to avoid them, including paying a fee for apps and web sites that may have been free with ads, much like I pay for HBO, Tivo, and XM radio. If viewing a video forces me to watch an ad, I rarely stay- only of someone else recommended it, and I told them I would look.

    As far as a distraction goes, I don't know about that. I definitely use it as a time filler where I used to read a lot more books. On the other hand now I read more news and opinion than I watch on TV, so all in all I think I read more than I used to, and watch less TV.

    Socially, as someone who lives alone (and likes it that way), I find it a benefit to be able to chat with friends and family casually. As my friends and siblings started to have kids, I found that phone calls were nearly impossible, and email and now Facebook are a lot more convenient for everyone. Not to mention TL where I have found some kindred spirits, at least on some level.

    I am withdrawing from many email lists. Even if I support the cause, I don't need mail about it all the time.

    Oh yeah, banning it from coffee shops seems a little extreme, but it is their business, so to each his own.  

    Firefox (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 07:39:11 AM EST
    has a built-in pop-up blocker, which eliminates most annoying ads.  I keep the volume on mute most of the time, so if any audio is playing, I'm not even aware of it.

    I have filters set up in my email, so much incoming stuff gets directed away from my inbox to subject folders, which I can go through when I have time and inclination.

    I unsubscribe from mailing lists that don't send me anything useful or interesting, including the vast majority of political/interest group lists because the content is so overwhelmingly fund-raising appeals.

    I use the Internet both for my work and for enjoyment and news, and what interests me is actual content, not 140-word blurbs.

    By far the best thing about the Internet for me is the ability immediately to go look up some piece of information or answer a question that pops into my mind on any subject.  Near-instant gratification of that curiosity itch.

    Pre-Internet, you pretty much just had to settle for never knowing, or a tedious and usually fruitless search through that decades-old Encyclopedia Britannica set your parents got when you were in high school.  Bleah.

    Immediate answers to questions... (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by kdog on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 08:20:24 AM EST
    is probably the coolest thing about the internet...unfortunately though the answer may be a buncha bullsh*t with so much misinformation on the net...though I guess the same applied/applies to old fashioned books, but accuracy & citing sources seemed to matter more in the pre-net days...now any knucklehead can publish their sh*t and the reader must take more caution in seperating the straight dope from the b.s.

    Like any other tool, it's how you use it and how often that determines if it is a distraction or not....same as television, cell phones, etc.


    True dat (none / 0) (#18)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 08:39:58 AM EST
    But I was referring more to basic factual things, rather than complicated cause-and-effect scenarios.  Even so, you have to learn which kinds of sources are reliable and the search terms that are most likely to turn them up.

    For instance, for gardening/crop issues, I only fully trust state ag extensions or ag schools.  They serve primarily commercial growers and can't afford to be giving out garbled info or just plain myths and nonsense.

    And Wikipedia is always great for stuff like finding out what eventually happened to Cromwell after you've finished the novel "Wolf Hall" and how many liberties the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" takes with the historical record.


    Even basic facts... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 08:58:12 AM EST
    you gotta watch...there are internet outfits who will play fast and loose with even basic facts...though I guess you could say the same for some newspapers.

    One thing I notice with all this info out there, it's harder than ever to know what to believe...almost like an info overload leading to confusion.


    You're right, but (none / 0) (#21)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 10:27:09 AM EST
    that's why I only trust certain kinds of Web sites for those facts.

    Ha. Saw this in Italy (none / 0) (#2)
    by Cream City on Sun Aug 08, 2010 at 06:09:32 PM EST
    in a small town that sabotaged the Internet in the town square, so that it was difficult (not impossible but difficult) to access in the cafes.  We were told that the town wanted to keep the cafe culture of conversation.

    As if -- as the town was one of the few we saw that did not ban traffic in the town square, a lovely medieval place turned into a parking lot.  And cars and motorcycles revved around and around constantly.  It was hard to hear a thing.

    I could not do without the Internet in my work.  So I am working on reducing use, just as I learned to do with teevee.

    Heaven forbid one gets between (none / 0) (#3)
    by scribe on Sun Aug 08, 2010 at 07:24:22 PM EST
    an Italian and his car/motorcycle. </snark>

    Actually, I think it's likely they have become so accustomed to the presence of vehicular traffic in the last 50-60 years that they think it quite normal to be sitting at a cafe swamped with exhaust fumes and shouting over vehicle noise.

    They just haven't figured out how to deal with everyone having their nose stuck in a netbook, as opposed to not.  I suspect that back in the late 50s or early 60s, when motor vehicles were really sinking their claws into Italy, there were similar schemes to ban them from the piazzas, or disable them, for pretty much the same reasons they are going after the internet.


    It was horrible (none / 0) (#4)
    by Cream City on Sun Aug 08, 2010 at 07:59:46 PM EST
    with no sidewalks in medieval towns -- so the cars and cycles and their exhaust were only inches from our tables.  And so was the noise.  So, no, the cafe dwellers did not shout over it all.  They  just stopped talking midsentence, over and over.  That just added to the difficulties for those of us attempting to converse with them in their language . . . and then they would be exasperated at us for not being able to put together sentence fragments that had come out in fits and starts -- and stops.

    But again, there are many towns there that have banned traffic from their squares.  So this town's banning of the Internet just added to its illogical oddities.  (There were many, many more.)

    I did learn to just laugh at criticisms I heard there of this country as a car culture -- and as a consumerist culture.  Even small-town Italians spend exorbitant amounts on cars . . . and on lingerie, among other interesting combinations.


    I deleted some responses to this comment (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 12:59:08 AM EST
    which were about lingerie rather than the internet.

    The culture of (none / 0) (#5)
    by JamesTX on Sun Aug 08, 2010 at 08:14:20 PM EST
    electronic telecommunications was constructed and financed by...well...the astronomically successful electronic telecommunications industry. We now have kids who talk about computer programs the way we used to talk about meaningful philosophical topics, social phenomena, or performers.

    The goal of the industry was to move us, in a very short time, into (this may already be an outdated term) a virtual world where everything significant in our lives was mediated by electronic telecommunications, if not entirely constructed within the circuitry. The coffee shop idea is great, because it means someone remembers what a real coffee shop was. Someone remembers that it is possible (and not always frightening, embarrassing, or offensive) to simply speak to another human being rather than texting, e-mailing, or posting on their social web page.

    The idea of trying to revive interpersonal communication outside "the network" is very important. For one thing, any real progressive political progress requires it.

    The drawback is that this is a trendy statement by some cafes, and the vast funds available to turn their idea into the laughing stock of the world is sitting in corporate accounts just waiting to be released. I'm all for anyone wanting to fight the beast; but remember, the beast is big, rich, and dangerous to toy with.

    I wish them luck.

    I think of the internet and other media (none / 0) (#8)
    by ZtoA on Sun Aug 08, 2010 at 08:53:25 PM EST
    as music. Polyrhythms in dissonance. People over a certain age (I don't know....maybe 35?) need to develop filters whereas the young people seem to have developed them organically thru so much internet use as young children. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a contemporary classical music riot - the new media and the speed it is experienced at creates riotous urges (maybe one reason, among many, that there is so much anger on the internet?)

    It is painful to experience media without filters, but also incredibly exciting and mind expanding. Like being at the premier of the Rite of Spring and assimilating a new way of musical thinking? Usually people like harmonies and will fight for them - in politics it is ideology. Professional associations also. But whatever the filter, communication has opened up, speeded up, and come in close so much that it has become another tower of Babel where communication does not really communicate.

    One comment about the cafe owner who banned internet and laptops and said customers can get their work done? Work on what? Most people working in coffee shops are working on their laptops.

    There is a difference (none / 0) (#11)
    by Cream City on Sun Aug 08, 2010 at 10:42:08 PM EST
    between working on a laptop/netbook on the 'Net and off the 'Net, yes?

    Hello again ZtoA, (none / 0) (#25)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sat Aug 14, 2010 at 05:38:49 PM EST
    I see you've been taking a bit of a hiatus from TL, as have I. If you're still intently interested in developments around the BP spill, why don't you drop by the ongoing DailyKos Gulf Watchers ROV threads. It's an ongoing "vigil" and at the end of each thread there's a link to the next. I know you'd get a warm welcome there. I'll be sure to say hello if, and when, you turn up. Please pass this on to KeysDan if you see fit.  Kind regards you and all.

    There are some sincere efforts... (none / 0) (#9)
    by EL seattle on Sun Aug 08, 2010 at 08:56:46 PM EST
    ...being made by serious people who are trying to provide valid criticism of the internet juggernaut without just acting all Luddite about the whole thing.  Unfortunately, there's a knee-jerk rsponse among a lot of internet folks to brand anyone with any criticism of the web as a Luddite anyway, so it seems to be really difficult for any valid criticism to be disseminated, let alone honestly discussed at all.

    I think that Jaron Lanier's book "You Are Not a Gadget" makes a lot of valid observations about places where the internet definitely isn't meeting expectations, and the the sorts of dangers that could result if the current state of things becomes the "new normal".

    There are other books out there, and it's probably very healthy to at least browse them all.  I think that it's always a good thing to have someone shout WAKE UP! right in your face every once in a while.

    I'd like to see TL topics tweeted on Twitter (none / 0) (#10)
    by Natal on Sun Aug 08, 2010 at 09:42:55 PM EST
    It would save me time as the postings would be with political news tweets that I follow. I could decide whether or not the topic was of sufficient interest to me to go to TL for details. Would it be possible Jeralyn?

    I occasionally use Twitter (none / 0) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 01:02:11 AM EST
    but I don't want to just use it just to broadcast TL's posts.

    I did set up an account called "TalkLeft Posts" intending to use that for a streamlined version of current posts, but I forgot about it and never figured out how to make every post go to that Twitter account. Maybe I'll give it another look.



    "Assaulted by the mundane" (none / 0) (#15)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 07:24:54 AM EST
    pretty much says it about Twitter as far as I'm concerned.  Yech.

    heres a funny recent post on another (none / 0) (#19)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 08:51:51 AM EST
    blog about this.  I suppose I understand laptops but banning e-readers is just stupid IMO.

    A few weeks ago I decided to mosey over to a local Manhattan coffee shop for an afternoon cappuccino.

    After placing my order I sat down at a table and pulled out my Amazon Kindle.

    I barely made it a sentence into the e-book I was reading before an employee of the coffee shop came by, stood over me and said, "Excuse me sir, but we don't allow computers in the coffee shop."

    I looked up at him with an incredulous look and replied, "This isn't a computer, it's an e-book reader."

    He then told me that the "device" in my hand had a screen and required batteries, so it was obviously "some variation of a computer." The coffee shop, I was told, did not allow the use of computers.

    Annoyed with this distinction, I peppered the employee with questions on why reading on paper was more acceptable than reading on a screen. Flustered and confused by the existential debate he had been dragged into, the employee resolutely said, "Look, no computers in the coffee shop."

    I was dragged into a similar dispute at a sandwich shop in Brooklyn, this time while reading and taking notes on my iPad. The employee there said no computers were allowed between noon and 3 p.m. After another lengthy defense of e-readers and screens, I lost, again, and sat there resentfully picking at my sandwich.

    The Spam robots are getting better. (none / 0) (#23)
    by EL seattle on Tue Aug 10, 2010 at 03:36:01 AM EST
    Every month or two it seems like they figure out a new way to spoof their way past e-mail security barriers.  I don't think it's a disaster yet, but as the spam is getting better at mimicking valid messages, and I think that that could mean trouble sometime soon.  

    For instance, if they're able to copy FedEx, UPS, or eBay e-mails, and include a brilliantly disguised malware link, that could lead to a world of hurt for even the experienced computer user if the spam message arrives when they're expecting (looking for) an e-mail from the actual shipping company.  

    Apparently, spam never sleeps, and neither do the malware armies.