Using a computer often gets branded with the same attributes as watching TV. It is often seen as antisocial and a waste of time. These machines rot our brains, right? Well, this past week I spent some time away from my computer, and I’ve come to a different conclusion.
First, I should clarify; I’m no monk – it was just a few days, but it was quite a change from my routine.
What I found was that my computer isn’t rotting my brain at all. Rather, I use my computer for all kinds of activities that I would generally consider quite healthy and positive.
I use my computer to write. I use my computer to read (all kinds of great stuff), I use my computer to communicate (with real people). I write for this site, I write for my intranet at work. I (attempt to) compose and record music. I communicate with people through email, through discussions on this site other others.
I also realized how much practical “real world” stuff I do online. For example, this week I constantly found myself wanting to do things like check the movie listing for the local independent cinema (aren’t I cool?), look up more detail on a news story I heard on CBC Radio (btw, CBC Radio is my new best friend), or even just taking care of some banking. Sure, I could call the cinema, and walk to the bank (which I did), but there is no offline equivalent to the ability to dig up details and background on a radio news story. Oh, and it turns out that banking online is a far more inviting and humanizing experience than actually going to the real bank.
I’ve learned this week that I use my computer (and the Internet) to do good things – things that I enjoy, at least.
A computer is just a tool (Marshall McLuhan be damned!). The computer is just as content to help you map the human genome as it is to show you hardcore midget porn. It will be interesting to see if the popular conception of what it means to “use a computer” will change. It might sound like a waste of time if I told you I spent all weekend “on the computer”, but what if I told you I was writing a novel, or composing a symphony (not that I’ve done either of these things).
This isn’t to say that I use my computer solely as a tool for enlightmentment. In fact, just last year I suffered a nasty adiction to Tony Hawk Pro Staker 2.
For more the on the “cult of Turn Off Your Computer”, read Curt Cloninger’s article, The Cult of “Turn Off Your Computer” Must Die.