Someone returned to Haddock after weeks off the list. It’s strange how quickly someone you only communicated with via a mailing list can feel suddenly distant. Anyway, she said she felt strangely more cheerful after she cut herself free, and wondered whether she’d soon be back to relentless cynicism, as is customary on the list.
It made me wonder what it would be like to turn one’s back on this whole relentless flow of text which we spend so much time dipping into. In the five years I’ve been online, ten days is probably the longest I’ve had without even an email. But that was while on holiday and when you’re driving round the south of France it’s easy to forget about the usual pressure to keep up with Slashdot (or whatever). It only takes a week or so away to realise those pressures don’t really matter, that I can survive without checking out my regular sites.
It’d be fascinating to stop keeping up with all this: not update my sites, unsub from mailing lists, keep away from the web. Checking personal email occasionally would be allowed; I’m not advocating becoming a total recluse, just a turning away from the constant, never-ending stream. I can’t imagine how I’d fill up the time. It took me a while to remember what I did with my free time in the years before 1995, but then I realised I still spent my life at an (offline) computer or playing play-by-mail games, so the arrival of a modem didn’t exactly turn my lifestyle around.
Of course, I couldn’t possibly do it. Stop struggling to keep up with a clutch of weblogs? Stop feeling bad about not updating my sites? Stop thinking about all the news I’m not getting round to reading? Stop telling myself how I really should log in to The Well again soon? Stop fiddling with code for yet another site no one will see? Stop hiding those mailboxes of unread mailing lists? How could I give up on all that?