Living Rich: Escaping the Internet

How many hours a day do you spend on the Internet? Me, I’m always connected – mainly because I work remotely. And, according to a Nielsen Online report, the average American was online 54 hours during the month of May.

It may come as no surprise that all this Internet interaction – combined with information overload and instant gratification – might not be so good for you. For one thing, it could be interfering with the way your mind works – and keeping you from enjoying some of life’s greatest pleasures.

Nicholas Carr addressed a new Internet “side effect” in July’s issue of The Atlantic. Here’s an excerpt from his article:

“I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. … What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.”

I can empathize. It’s easy to shuttle between 12 different browser windows … easier still to scan a blog entry or an article for the “gist” before moving on … or to cope with information overload by dealing with it in tiny slices.

If that’s how you do most of your reading these days, it seems reasonable that your brain would “reset” itself to functioning that way. And that doesn’t bode well for your ability to process longer chunks of information – nor for your sanity.

Here’s a solution: Give yourself a daily “Living Rich” break from the Internet. Get lost in a novel. Close your eyes and listen to classic jazz. Enjoy a wine tasting with a few friends. Attend a concert in the park. Plan a trip to a new city or country.

If MaryEllen Tribby – CEO of a multimillion-dollar company – can leave her laptop at home for a week while she’s on vacation, you can shut down your computer for a few hours a day.