A Mac application called Freedom is for people like me who have a dicey relationship with being online: I am at once fond of the boundless information at my fingertips, but troubled by my frequent and unintentional excursions down information highways and byways, waking up hours later, mind clouded and original task incomplete.
If you're thinking I just need to exercise some will power, please go to the next post (I heap enough judgment upon myself without yours). If you're thinking, "Boy, I have that same problem," read on. The cheekily named Freedom does what for us what many of us can't do for ourselves: it takes you and your computer into the monastic offline world.
The Mac-only application gives a pop-up window to enter in how much time you want to disable your internet connection (up to 6 hours). When your time is up, your connection resumes. If you decide midway that you need to find the new name of the Sears Tower, you will have to reboot your computer (the new name is Willis Tower btw, not that anyone will use it).
My first time using it, I entered what I thought was a reasonable 60 minutes. Since I don't have a TV or smartphone, I was really offline. After a few minutes, I started going into withdrawal, thinking of all those important emails that come in at 9:00PM on a Wednesday night. Not having the gumption to reboot, I ended up making dinner and listening to a pre-downloaded podcast of This American Life.
While offline, I received one email saying someone commented on my Facebook status.
I plan to exercise Freedom a lot more in the future. I want to take this step not only to enlarge my gnat-like attention span, but for social and environmental reasons as well:
- The internet is not good for relationships. A 2007 report said 65% of people spent more time online than they did with their spouses . While I'm not married, perhaps if I spent less time online, I would have time to find a spouse to ignore.
- The internet is energy intensive. While TreeHugger has discussed strategies to save energy while online like using Blackle, the best conservation strategy is to go offline. A CNN article reported that a study estimated the manufacturing, use and disposal of information and communications technology generate about two percent of the world's greenhouse gases—similar to the level produced by the entire aviation industry. With my luck, I'll probably fly more often in the void of being offline.