When we got married we had a 12 inch Walmart TV, with a built in VCR. That was our TV for three and a half years.
We turned it on one day only to be greeted by the smell of a puff of smoke and to see the screen's final burst of radiant whiteness before giving out forever. Unbeknownst to us, our TV apparently looked suspiciously like a piggy bank, which caused our two year old to shove a handful of change in it. TV's don't like change very much.
It didn't phase us too much though. For most of our married life we've lived as poor college students with too little money or time to spend on a cable subscription. We aren't anti-TV exactly. Two of the apartments we rented included free TV and we enjoy watching shows together (like Hawaii Five-0, The Simpsons and The Office).
The Internet Is My TV
Yesterday I realized something depressing though. The Internet is my TV. I don't mean that we use it to watch TV shows (though we do that too -- that's not the depressing part). What I mean is that I still get to keep up with all the dumb scare news stories, all the most 'important' celebrity gossip and am exposed to (close to) the same amount of advertising as when I had TV growing up.
My main news sites in the past have been : news.google.com, nytimes.com, bbc.co.uk and reuters.com. My entertainment came from Slashdot, Digg, Engadget and Technorati. And there may have been the occasional indulgence in watching just plain stupid stuff over at YouTube.
Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of cool and worthwhile stuff on all those sites. But although I may not have a TV, I can't join in the moral superiority of the rest of the non-TV watching world.
The Internet, Advertising, and Me
I had though that I had tricked The Internet from attacking me with advertising. After all, I have Ad Block Plus installed and I use Firefox. I don't get pop ups, I can't remember the last time I was asked to punch the monkey, and I don't know the name of any 'single girls in my area' who want to meet me.
Advertising comes in many forms. For the last several years I have been actively seeking out stories, news and articles which pitch, promote and expo things I can buy!
Maybe it's worked too. We bought my wife a Mac and we own a Wii (and a new TV. Christmas present from my Dad).
Do you find yourself seeking out "news" and "updates" on things you would like to buy? Do you think that maybe you're purposefully and willingly exposing yourself advertising, re-enforcing your desire to get those things, under the guise of keeping up to date?
Where Does the Balance Lie?
Here's where I'm stuck. I studied computers and technology in school. I have a solid base in the fundamentals and am currently on top of what's the latest and greatest for a lot of different technology sectors. If I don't keep reading about the coolest latest technology, I will likely end up like so many greybeards in the tech industry -- they know the fundamentals and know what worked well back in their day, but are too far behind to implement new and better solutions.
If I take that view all the way, then I should keep on top of all the technology I can.
On the other hand, keeping up with it all can be draining. I haven't visited Slashdot, Digg or several other tech sites in more than a month. I get sore fore-arms really easily because I'm typing and programming for up to 10 hours a day.
If I do keep up with everything, I will get burned out. Besides getting burned out, I don't have as much time with my family or other hobbies as I'd like.
Dreams of Change
I'm incredibly blessed to have gotten a good education in a field that pays well. I have skills, experience and a network which allow me to get a new job pretty easily. I can make a good living for my family with technology related work. I usually love what I do too. I love to make things work and to fix broken code.
...but...sometimes I resent computers. I hate that I am a slave to system updates and upgrades. To new hardware advances. To security flaws. To power outages. To hacking attempts. To cool new programs that I just have to try out. Mostly though, I hate that I love working on them.
A part of me yearns to break free from them. Something in me wishes I could go weed the garden and plow a field and chase down runaway cows on a dirt bike. I'd have a wood shop in my shed with a lathe, a router, and a table saw. I'd be outside enjoying and working in reality instead of changing the magnetic orientation of particles on a metal disk fabricating a new artificial world online.
Reality and Me
What will I really end up doing? Probably I'll go get an MBA and become a manager somewhere. That'll get me off of the computer and away from the eternal upgrade process. It'll give me a bit of insurance against my RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) which could one day turn into carpal tunnel syndrome. It'll also let me keep feeding and caring for my family; I don't even know how to drive a plow.