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For some of us, digital IS the down time

Submitted by on Friday, 27 August 2010 No Comment

I have a new nightly routine of late, mainly because the old one wasn’t working.

Use to be, I’d tuck the guys in and then toss fitfully in an attempt to doze off. I’d eventually give up and get up, raiding the fridge before returning to bed to toss and turn some more. This often went on for hours.

Last week, though, I figured out that the solution was as close as my nightstand. For the past several nights, I’ve picked up my phone and started going over the emails I missed during the day. The Slashdot daily stories summary – it’s one of the few email subscriptions I still use – usually lands at about that time, so I can always find something to read.

After an hour to 45 minutes, I’ll start to nod. I put down my phone, and I’m off to dreamland with far fewer empty calories consumed than in the old days.

It’s ironic that my nightly phone surf-a-thon led me via Slashdot to a story earlier this week that explained how digital devices are depriving our brains of downtime. “When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas,” the New York Times proclaimed.

Let the hand-wringing begin anew. The article is filled “research suggests” and “scientists suspect,” all leading to this breathless discovery: “Processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.” Or maybe it’s merely a suggestion.

In my case, it’s pure bunk. Maybe that’s because I’m a freak or maybe, just maybe, it’s because I’ve always been this way and technology finally caught up to my habits.

“Best wishes to a wild and crazy girl¬† who finds 30,000 things to do 27 hours a day.”

By the time my high school band director wrote that in 1982, I’d already settled into a late-night routine of scoring baseball games on radio. Or frantically scribbling in a now embarrassingly angsty journal. If I’d had a Blackberry back then, I would have spent a whole lot less time trying to remove stains from blotty ballpoint pens from my bed linens.

Perhaps it’s yet another sign that I’m a freak, but only rarely do I benefit from true “down time.” Those few occasions usually come after I’ve been awake way to late the night before trying to will myself to sleep because, after all, too much digital is bad for us.

Sorry, New York Times, but I don’t need to clear my head. I need to focus on something other than the cacophony of thoughts galloping through it.¬† I don’t want to think about today’s to-do list that didn’t get done or the insurmountable pile of stuff waiting the next day.

I want a distraction from all of that, and that distraction is Slashdot on my Blackberry. What else can I do? The radio reception here is way too lousy for me to score a game.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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