Around the Bend: Internet overload calls for timeout

I love the Internet. A lot. If it dispensed food I’d never leave the computer.
But it’s time the Internet and I took a little break.
Things were better years ago. Every morning, I’d fix a cup of coffee and sit down to read my email, pausing only to let the dog and cat in or out 10 to 20 times. (For you young people, “email” was a popular thing before Facebook. It was a handy method of communicating — privately! — with people you knew in real life.)
Over time, however, the Internet has grown. Now you can check the news and weather, read articles, watch tutorials on how to de-bone a chicken and fletch your own arrows, do your shopping and banking, communicate with friends (and strangers), find recipes, share photos and videos, download music, play games and read movie reviews. In other words, the Internet has become a dangerously seductive place for information hounds.
Yes, I’m one of those desperate souls who hunger to find out about everything, interesting or not. I have to read constantly, and I’ll settle for whatever’s available, from my hand mixer’s user manual to my grocery receipts.
Have you ever found yourself in a waiting room where, for some reason, the only magazine is the fall 2005 issue of Die Hard: The Quarterly Journal of the American Association of Machine Stampers and Diemakers? I would read that sucker from cover to cover. I can’t help it.
While I admire folks who can sit peacefully in an empty room bereft of even a single grocery receipt and feel serene, I’m not one of those people. I crave an endless stream of data input, and the Internet has magically filled that need for me. But now I’m starting to feel that it has exceeded my brain’s bandwith capacity.
These days checking email takes just a few seconds, since the only messages I get anymore are special offers from Crate and Barrel. But there is so much more to the Internet! Each morning, I start by visiting several news sites. In spite of my better judgment, I read the comments, determine that if they reflect the intelligence of the average American we are in worse trouble than anyone knows, and quickly switch to less stressful sites, such as knitting forums and live webcams of pandas napping.
Occasionally I visit Pinterest, a sort of online bulletin board, currently hot among the DIY craft-minded and the soon-to-be married. (Anything clever your friends have created in the past year — particularly any home accent made of wine corks or embellished with a metallic Sharpie — was inspired by Pinterest. I guarantee it.)
Then I’ll check Facebook to see who thought the weekend was too short and who is proud of their child this week. It’s riveting.
I like to round out the morning with a smorgasbord: weather, celebrity gossip and a smattering of YouTube videos: babies and cats (when I’m feeling cheerful), and montages of service members being reunited with their dogs after a long deployment (when I feel like a good cry).
But there’s more. There are links, links everywhere to all the things I didn’t know I wanted to know. What is the “Harlem Shake”? What is the deal with Oscar Pistorius’ brother? What, please tell me, is the No. 1 simple trick to a flat belly? I must find out.
And that’s the problem.
There’s only so much time in the morning and now I’ve got hundreds of sites to visit and links to follow. What used to be a leisurely stroll around cyberspace is now a coffee-fueled race to click on the whole Internet before breakfast. It’s all I can do to skim headlines and click through pictures and, then, seeing the clock, sprint out the door to work. I leave the house with my mind a jumble of vacuous tidbits, from speculation on the future of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s relationship to 10 surprising uses for leftover tinfoil.
This can’t go on.
So starting tomorrow morning I’m challenging myself to skip the computer. Instead, I’m going to pour a cup of coffee and sit by the window to watch the sun rise over the pristine Vermont landscape while my mind savors the silence and solitude.
I give it 15 minutes before I crack.  

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