In a scenario familiar to many of us, Traister finds herself bowing to the tyranny of the internet age. A "comparative Luddite," she still finds herself devoting an unseemly amount of time to the sirens of email, Facebook, and online word games. What's worse, as Traister describes it, she doesn't even know why she's online half the time; it's become an automatic and unhealthy compulsion that has nothing to do with acquiring knowledge or enhancing communication.
And so, like an increasing number of others, Traister has turned to a newish program called Freedom, a free application invented by a UNC student who's asked only for donations, since he designed it, apparently, for the common good. In Traister's words,
Freedom will disable the networking, only on a Mac computer, for periods of anywhere from one minute to eight hours. No Web sites, no e-mail, no instant messaging, no online shopping, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Jezebel, no iTunes store, no streaming anything. Once it is turned on, as it hilariously claims, "Freedom enforces freedom"; you cannot turn it off without rebooting your computer.
Despite her embarrassment of admitting she has a problem, Freedom turns out to be a boon:
It's been about a week with Freedom, and I like it, I really do, even if I'm a bit ashamed that I need it. I still use it mostly for about 15- or 30-minute periods...I have gotten an immense amount of work done, and it has demonstrated, again and again, in ways that I've known intellectually but not viscerally, how Web-dependent I have become. And I'm not referring to connectivity simply as a time-waster or procrastination tool, but as a work resource. Where once I would have reached for dictionaries or thesauri, or written notes and references, I have found exactly how hungry — and temporarily starved — I've become for all the instant information I'm so used to having at my fingertips.
As anyone who's had an internet outage knows, we've come to think of internet not merely as essential, but as our due: the rage we feel in these moments - the depth of our frustration when a connection flickers in a cafe - is disproportionate. And while we might say it's because we need email or spread sheets (and we do) it's also infuriating not to have the weather at our fingertips, movie showtimes, the resolution of an IMDB bet, the ingredients for a dinner dish. While Traister's larger point about the brain-melting effects of constant media bombardment, mindless, unsatisfying surfing and endless demands are well-taken, so too is this idea that it's healthy to ween ourselves off intellectual laziness. And, just as much, intellectual entitlement. Remember that scene in Ghost World where the officious guy comes into the coffee shop where Rebecca works, produced a computer and summarily looks up the daily trivia question's answer, before smugly demanding his free coffee?
"That's awesome," says Enid.
"It's really not," says her friend wearily.
Stop the Internet, I want to get off! [Salon]