In the course of regular conversations, I sometimes take positions like: “books will never die because the experience of holding and looking at a book cannot be replaced by a screen,” or, “at some point, the stimuli we encounter online will produce a movement valuing a longer attention span,” or, “it would be great if I could live without a high-speed internet connection at my house.” I can support all of these propositions, and I do sometimes fantasize about a life “free from” technology, but lately I’ve been thinking that I’ve been away from the internet for too long, and that it’s time to come back. This may sound strange, given that I’ve done a reasonable job of updating this blog over the past year and a half, but it’s not too difficult to explain why I’ve arrived at this conclusion.
I came to Japan almost exactly two years ago, after working a desk job which required that I spend my entire day in front of a computer with an open browser. Still, almost every day I would come home from work and sit right back down in front of the computer again. Any desk jockeys will understand the unpleasant feeling of attachment to one’s computer. At times, during my longer internet voyages, I would feel that I had simply run out of new stuff to look at, but still continue to click through pages in search of something new. It’s no coincidence that my most prolific period of blogging (19 posts in July 2008) came at this time: every day, I could trawl the internet for new photographers, books, or thoughts.
After getting to Japan, I got a job teaching English. This is a standard job for Americans in Japan, and I’m still doing it now. I teach in a couple of different public junior high schools, which, coming from my desk job, has been a real breath of fresh air—liberation from the computer at last! I feel lucky that I’ve been able to teach my group of kids, rather than bored businessmen. It’s been great to be around my students; I’ve probably learned just as much about Japanese culture from them as they have about English from me. Also, it ought to go without saying, but 13-year-olds are hilarious people to be around. So teaching has been a good thing to do after escaping the office.
I’m starting to realize, though, what it means that I haven’t had such a close, daily connection to the internet. Of course there are days when it’s painful to be in front of the computer non-stop, but there are also days (or hours, or perhaps just a few minutes) when you slip into some sort of groove, and find yourself stumbling upon three really fantastic photographers all at once, and they’re all in different parts of the world, and they couldn’t possibly be aware of each other (could they?), but you can see a connection between them, and it relates to your own preoccupations of that moment. That’s what I feel I’ve missed, I’m sure I have missed them because I’m not really “around” online all that much.
So, this year I’m going to pony up and get a phone with a proper data plan. I ride a train for about an hour to work every day, and I think I can put in some time looking through more work, using Twitter more regularly, and just being a bit more aware of what’s happening online. I’ve got a few other things planned for 2011, but I’ll keep them under wraps for now. It should be a big year though, so hang around and watch me make some things happen!
(Photos in this post: work I found while trawling Flickr for the first time in a long while.)