Internet: Unplugging in the Information Age

In about three years, I've watched 4,726 videos on YouTube.
But wait, it gets worse.
The 4,726 views (which isn't really that outrageous, is it?) are relegated to one measly account.
I've probably got about half a dozen user names on there -- and they've all got ludicrously high statistics too, I'm sure.
Only meta-consciousness in charge of the Net knows exactly how much time I've whittled away on that damn site. Thankfully, he's not talking.
That's good news. Because honestly, if I saw hard numbers telling me how much time I've spent surfing YouTube, I'd probably swear off the Net forever. And we can't have that, can we?
Of course not. We're members of Generation Y, the folks who've taken ownership of the Internet and transformed it into a new forum for American culture. I take my life 140 characters at a time, thank you very much.
But maybe we shouldn't be thinking like this.
When Google CEO Eric Schmidt begs us to meet real people and go outside, it might be time to listen.

"Our goal is to have you be as attached as possible," Schmidt said. "But know where the off button is. It's possible to spend your life inside the computer.

These tools are enormously powerful. Use them, then turn them off. . . . Life is the people around you. Talk to them."

Earlier this month, the LA Times filed an interesting piece on the so-called "Blackberry Babies" -- tracking a group of teenagers who went without cell phones and iPods.
The week felt like a lifetime.

"I can't stand it," [10th-grader] Cesar Rodriguez wrote in his journal on the second day of a one-week attempt to survive without television, iPods, cellphones, BlackBerrys and computers. "I woke up last night but I was still kind of asleep and I was having a dream about my phone and I started to bang my head against the pillow. I AM GOING CRAZY!!!"

The article continues ...

Andres Lopez told me he'd been so bored he went to a barber and had his shaggy locks shorn, "Just to fill the void."

Jose Alvarez said he had tried Pilates and something even more exotic: "I cleaned my room."

Mario Canaba was turned so upside down, he actually played with some of his mother's day-care kids, but described the experience in a single word: "Painful."

Angie Gaytan lost track of the days and had a strange episode of disorientation in which she found herself staring at a piece of chicken.

"I felt weird and out of order," Valerie Lira wrote in describing the experience of waking up and not turning on the television.

Rodriguez, confessing the media fast was "the hardest thing I have ever had to do," drank a lot of water, like a man trying to make it across a desert. At his lowest point, trying desperately to kill time, he accidentally broke a lamp.

"I was playing soccer in my living room," he said.

But hey, at least the kids were being creative. They actually started pursuing some new hobbies. One even took notice of the adventuresome world found right in her own backyard ...

Daniel Romero read a book for the first time this year.

Lopez actually communicated with an uncle during a rare conversation about swine flu, politics and history.

Jenny Corona connected with her autistic brother, and, to her utter amazement, read an entire Harry Potter book in four days.

Without her headphones blocking out the real world, Flor Salvador heard strange chirping sounds.

"I didn't know we had birds!" she wrote in her journal.

The moral of it all? Unplug, dammit. You might just discover something new and exciting.
Heck, you might even meet some new people and not want to spend 12 hours a day glued to your computer. Crazy, I know, but it just might happen. And don't worry if your YouTube stats drop or you lose a few Twitter followers, if you're able to hear the birds birds again, it's worth it.

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