Idol Chatter

There’s a new software program out called Freedom and it’s the answer to my prayers: it blocks your computer from any and all internet use for upwards of eight hours per day. You may be thinking: but that’s crazy! If you are like me, though, and checking email and looking up things on the web is the downfall of your professional and writing life, not to mention feels like a black hole pulling you into an endless spiral you can’t wind your way out of (I know, sounds bad, right?), then you are saying to yourself: thank God! How can I get this?
Freedom is free! (ha) Though, so far it’s only for Mac users (sorry PC people).
I’ve written a lot about the need for a weekly internet sabbath of sorts, and a few years ago I even gave up surfing the web and checking email for Lent. But I feel like I’m to the point where I need a retreat of sorts from the web on a daily basis–time set aside when I am focused and working and just being offline that becomes a part of my daily ritual. And I’m not alone.

Peggy Orenstein of The New York Times Sunday Magazine wrote about just this need–and why getting off the internet instead of on might even be the road to enlightenment and internet self-discipline in her article, “Stop Your Search Engines.” She explains:
“Not long ago, I started an experiment in self-binding: intentionally creating an obstacle to behavior I was helpless to control, much the way Ulysses lashed himself to his ship’s mast to avoid succumbing to the Sirens’ song. In my case, though, the irresistible temptation was the Internet…It is heartening that the yearning for learning is the most powerful of all human cravings (though it applies equally to obtaining the wisdom of Zeus or the YouTube video on how to peel a banana like a monkey). Yet the sea surrounding the Sirens was littered with corpses. Can increased knowledge really destroy us?…It could be that sometimes our greatest freedom may be to choose freedom from freedom. I am still surprised by the relief that floods me whenever I bind myself from going online, when I have no option but to ignore the incessant tweets and e-mail messages and videos and news links and even the legitimate research.”
I am with Ms. Orenstein on this one–I need some serious self-binding and a spiritual practice (aka this software) to help me down this path. I am going to download Freedom and see how it goes. But I’m curious: am I the only person who feels this way? Are you interested in practicing a daily internet sabbath in your own life?

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