Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two Hours Alone in Your Head

My school installed wi-fi throughout the building last year and students have taken to it like Kirstie Alley after donuts; everywhere you go, you see them sitting around, emailing, checking their Facebook accounts, and playing World of Warcraft or Halo; and once in a while, even connecting to the library to download the readings I’ve assigned.

I’m pretty relaxed about this because, after all, I’ve got no real room to complain; as I sit at my computer working, I’m constantly looking to see if I’ve gotten that one important electronic mail message that is going to change my (admittedly pretty good) life for the better, or occasionally logging into the bike gang’s forum for updates on inanity and injuries, or reading the New York Times online between opportunities to keep up on blogs written by friends, family, and strangers who I know only by their online words.

Still, what I don’t get is why a solid handful of students--and I notice this much more when I visit other teachers’ classes, although I know it goes on just as much in mine—have to slyly and not-so-slyly check up on the interwebz during the mere one hour and fifty minutes (minus a break!) they’re sitting in class. This is addiction, pure and simple.

Unlike my life, by contrast, which really might feature an email from the Secretary-General of the U.N. requiring immediate attention, or, even more critical, a text update from my kid to bring home some magic markers from work, what possibly could be so urgent in the life of a 19 year-old that he or she would have to stay on top of it 24/7?

I keep thinking that, look, you’ve got another fifty or sixty years to be connected online; you’ve only got 110 minutes to bask uninterrupted in the ideas of Descartes, Plato, and Bertrand Russell, so set close up the screen, okay? And try thinking with your mind!

Yours truly,
Andy Rooney


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