When the clocks turned over from 2010 to 2011, in addition to the plethora of “Best of 2010” lists and posts, there were scads of posts across the interwebs that dealt with disappointment that now we were in 2011, where were our flying cars? Trips to the moon? Why can’t we move our molecules easily from one location to the next ala Star Trek? Why were all the things we were promised that were to happen by this time haven’t happened yet?
Was there something specific about the year 2011 that I missed? Some kind of anniversary for something? The sheer amount of posts on this topic were enough that it seemed that nearly every blog or website I crawled, someone was making a glib joke about the lack of whatever we were supposed to be having now or likewise, pointing out they were not going to make a comment on the topic but dammit, where were our phasers!?
I got to thinking about things I expected to have happened by now, when really, the list was nothing more then a litany of complaints about current services and offerings in my #firstworldlife. While there seemingly does seem to be an app for just about everything, there is still so much that is firmly quaint with antiquity.
Here’s an example: The New York Times has digitized and indexed their entire archives dating back to 18something something, but it took four months to update my phone number on my bill. Why? Because it’s manually done. Seriously. Even if you login to their website to update anything, the system is not automated. It’s passed on to someone and it is updated manually. Customer service rep confirmed it for me when I asked what was taking so long to update billing information. She wasn’t joking.
But most of my complaints, ahem, were exactly that: complaints. My issues had more to do with poor software execution/training then say something grand that is lacking in our current reality. Sure, my complaints are legit (Really, New York Times? I can’t update my own g-d phone number?) for the most part but they aren’t that important. So the post I was writing on the topic was left languid in the draft format. Over the last few months, however, I realised that it is not so much that what I was planning on saying was not relevant to the conversation of 2011 and the future, but that much of what I was having issues with was plain old information overload. Coupled with that I’ll freely admit I’m an information hoarder and you can see the problem that I’m having blossoming even larger. Whenever I start to feel anxious, which is more often than not, much of what I’m feeling anxious about has a leg in information overload. Maybe not a whole leg, but at least a toe. While I’m fantastic for information management, I’m piss poor at absorbing all this information I’m managing. Instead of managing it in a healthy way, I choose to let it build and overflow while I go hide somewhere else.
I know I’m not the only one: dozens of friends have told me over the years that occasionally they do a email/RSS/Twitter/Facebook whatever amnesty and just clear out the backlog and move forward from that day on because there is so much fucking content. Who can keep up with it all? I have a really, really hard time with letting go because you may never know when you need $it, whatever $it may be. This is also the same thought process of hoarders of things in the physical realm and I’m waiting for my turn on the television show of the same name where I’m confronted by concerned friends and family, urging me to give up one of my dozen email accounts. I just shuddered at the mere thought.
One example of my information hoarding is such: I subscribed to the main mailing list for a professional organization I am a member of and that list is incredibly active. So active that within a year nearly 2000 messages (probably much more as that is just the number gMail gave me for unread messages) had been posted to the list. How do I know this? Because I rarely, if ever, read the damned things and just let them pile up in a gMail folder allocated for said group. I finally let go and unsubscribed from the damned list. Another folder, which is a consolidation of mailing lists from various professional interest groups, is currently sitting at 1500+ messages, dating back to over a year, most of them unread. I tell myself I will go back and play “catch up” but in reality, I never actually do. The longer I wait on reading said messages, the less relevant they become but I continue to convince myself that this is not so. And with me, it’s just not email; it’s also Facebook, RSS feeds, Twitter, LiveJournal, Tumblr and the list goes on. When I get up in the morning, In order of checking for new information it goes email->Facebook->Twitter->RSS feeds->Tumblr->Friend Feed->LiveJournal->everything else. This does not include wandering around the interwebs when someone passes on a link of interest to me personally or I find something via one of my other outlets. And most of the time, it stops after Twitter because I have ended up spending most of my day tracking down bits & pieces of superficial interest rather than read up on my passions.
Sometimes, I don’t get me.
Parallel to this problem is that I’m interested in A LOT of stuff, with some of it specific (Jane Austen) and some of it very broad (music). To compensate, I subscribe/obtain to everything I can find my hands on that may cover the topic in some form. This is how it always begins and thusly gets me into trouble/panic mode: I get interested in something (medieval history) and instead of cultivating to a specific niche (the role of women in the middle ages) or context (life in northern England from 800-1100 CE), I grab everything that broadly goes on the topic, get overwhelmed by sheer amount of information and then walk away, letting it rot. Then I’ll come back some period of time (days/weeks/months), revive my interest in it again and the cycle starts all over. While everyone seems to wish for contact with Martians, flying cars and ability to transport in microseconds from one side of the world to the other, I think the only thing I would like is more human contact. Less time attempting to play catch-up with the internets and more time playing catchup with friends. I wish to move way from the constant Tweeting/texting/Tumblring/Facebooking and more to random drop-ins with friends/postcards/phone calls. More face to face time with people I love and less stress about missing out on supposedly important information. Less time correcting the internet and more about spirited conversations at coffee shops and pubs.
You know a nod back to the good olde days when technology was supposed to free of us and make us less dependent on the very premise to spend more time with friends and family and instead, technology has enslaved us. We’re so busy upgrading, downgrading, unfriending, unfollowing to manage our lives that we forget that our lives are passing us by but we keep thinking that by consolidating, informating, streamlining we’re going to be able to get that time back we have missed.
We are the fools – the time is never coming back.