As I nursed my customary morning cup of coffee, I did what I usually do. I made the obligatory stops at Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. I checked my e-mails and skimmed the headlines. Then, I powered off my laptop, and closed it shut like a briefcase—something I can’t imagine doing other days.
I took out one of the three notebooks I have, grabbed a pen, opened a book, locked myself in a room, and began writing by … hand. Within a matter of a few hours, I’d filled 960 lines with my penmanship, my hand progressively steadying the more I wrote.
I’d become a medieval scribe; my room, a scriptorium. That was the strange influence on me of Nicholas Carr’s book, “The Shallows.” I’d barely alighted on the prologue, when I felt I’d had a Vulcan mind meld with Carr. I could relate to the arguments advanced in his book with a heartfelt genuineness: that the Internet is fragmenting our thought process.
Plunking down to write by hand may seem like a foolish, quixotic activity, in today’s day and age, but my goal was to see the effect of a disconnection from the Internet, with its myriad addictive distractions.
No sooner than I shut the Dell up, the world around me quietened. An invisible hum subsided. Though I wasn’t able to immediately submerge in what I was doing, I did, however, instantly sense that I’d moved from the mental equivalent of New York to Bedford, a quiet green hamlet, north of the city.
Distance gave me clarity. As the hours away from the Internet grew longer, my mind decelerated into a state of pleasant languor, giving me the opportunity to reflect on what the Internet has been doing to me all along.
It’d dilute my concentration, scatter my thoughts, and leave my mind in sixes and sevens, like a ransacked room. It also renders me testy, impatient, and a recluse. All of this takes place on a subconscious level, on a track parallel to the conscious plane, where, of course, I’m convinced that I’m working at a furious pace, with intense attention.
As I write this, I have slid back into my old habit. I’m staring at the screen, waiting for the arrival of new stimulation.