Try The Slow Lane On The Information Superhighway

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Are you looking for a bike lane on the Information Superhighway? I ran across these words a while back on the Internet, and my response was a desperate "yes!"

Not that I've always felt that way. When I first heard the words, "Information Superhighway" in the early 1980s, I felt a thrill. I'd always been a glutton for information.

Like everyone else, I devoured radio and television. I embraced movies, audio books, CDs, billboards, catalogs, newsletters, and ultimately, computers and the Internet all miraculous innovations that sprouted new generations of themselves faster than I could acquire and pay for them.

Till one day, I'd had it. Like one piece of fudge too many, it all started to make me sick. Talking heads on TV blathering political drivel, talk radio in the beauty shop, junk mail stuffing my wastebasket, phone pitches at dinnertime, stacks of unread magazines on my coffee table, unread books bought on impulse crowding the shelves the ecstasy of information had become an agony.

I was living life in sound bites. My attention span and patience were zilch. I had no time to think, and when I did, my mind was foggy. Meaningful conversations with real people were getting rarer and seemed to take too much effort. I felt manipulated and angry. And I cringed at the money it took to support this addiction.

Could I tame the beast without killing it?

I knew I had to set some priorities, starting with the media. The issue was complicated by the fact that information and entertainment have become practically synonymous. I confessed that, heretical as it sounds, I don't need to be entertained 24-7.

So TV, mostly an entertainment medium, including its so-called news, and the most expensive of the media, had to go. Repetitive, dumbed-down programming filling a surfeit of channels was increasingly boring and insulting. I could live without it, I decided. True, I've missed the rare good shows. And I do feel sort of left out that I'm not watching "Survivor" with the rest of the country. But I survived without living Elian's ordeal along with him via TV. Maybe I'll even be able to cast an educated vote for the next U.S. president without the tube's denizens telling me what to think.

I don't feel deprived. I rent movies, or get them from the library now and then. I read local and regional newspapers and indulge in a magazine off the newsstand occasionally. (I let my subscriptions expire.) I surf the Internet for information I really need or want, which I consider fun. I use my computer more like an appliance than a Game Boy. I still read books, but not just because they're on the best seller list. I don't automatically turn on the radio in the car anymore. I'm selective there, too.

I'm calling the shots now. I choose to listen, read or view when, where and what I please. But I'm not leaving a vacuum as I toss out the garbage. I feel saner and I can hear my own thoughts more clearly now. There's less advertising to resist, which means less impulsive buying. I'm more connected to nature's sights and sounds. I'm less compulsive about seeking expert advice, and trusting my own instincts more. I spend more time with real people, including family.

I am no longer overconnected to a mechanistic world that creates unrealistic expectations and makes impossible demands on my time and energy.

I think I found that bike lane.

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