TITLE: Distracted All the Time, or "Warped by YouTube" AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: September 23, 2010 10:24 PM DESC: ----- BODY: A friend sent me an e-mail message last night that said, among other things, "So, you've been recruiting." I began my response with, "It's a hard habit to break." Immediately, this song was in my ear. I had an irrational desire to link to it, or mention it, or at least go play it. But I doubt Rick cared to hear it, or even hear about my sudden obsession with it, and I had too much to do to take the time to surf over to YouTube and look it up. Something like this happens to me nearly every time I sent down to write, especially when I blog. The desire to pack my entries with a dense network of links is strong. Most of those links are useful, giving readers an opportunity to explore the context of my ideas or to explore a particular idea deeper. But every so often, I want to link to a pop song or movie reference whose connection to my entry is meaningful only to me. YouTube did this to me. So did Hulu and Wikipedia and Google and Twitter, and the rest of the web. What an amazing resource. What a joy to be able to meet an unexpected need or desire. What a complete distraction. It is hard for someone who remembers the world pre-web to overstate how amazing the resource is. These days, we are far more likely to be surprised not to find what we want than the other way around. Another friend expressed faux distress this morning when he couldn't find a video clip on-line of an old AT&T television commercial from the 70s or 80s with a Viking calling home to Mom. Shocking! The interwebs had failed him. Or Google. Still there are days when I wonder how much having ubiquitous information at my fingertips has changed me for the worse, too. The costs of distraction are often subtle, an undertow on the flow of conscious thought. Did I really need to think about Chicago while writing e-mail about ChiliPLoP? The Internet didn't invent distraction, but it did make a cheap, universal commodity out of it. Ultimately, this all comes back to my own weakness, the peculiar way in which my biology and experience have wired my mind for making connections, whether useful or useless. That doesn't mean the Internet isn't an enabler. I am in a codependent relationship with the web. And we all know that a codependent relationship can be a hard habit to break. -----