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Turning Off the Info Tap

By Matt Wood in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 5, 2006 3:09PM

Chicagoist worries that one day when we kick the bucket, all they'll be able to put on our tombstone is, "He read a lot of stuff on the internet." It's frightening how much time we spend on the internet, and yet, like a drunk convincing himself he can learn to have "just a few," every time we question our overconsumption, we end up falling off the wagon again and looking for answers at the bottom of an RSS reader. At some point, it became less fun, morphing from something we did in our spare time to unwind, into a bottomless, never-ending chore that we must finish every day.

chicagoist_20061005_tivo.jpgThe Tribune ran a syndicated piece by the Los Angeles Times' Meghan Daum today addressing a similar pathology with another piece of technology that is supposed to make our free time more efficient: Tivo. She writes that all the must-watch TV shows endlessly piling up on the box, waiting patiently to be consumed, have become a new source of frustration in her life, ruining what once used to be a pleasurable activity:

Ever since I got a DVR system, my television has become a source of dread. No longer a symbol of slothful refuge wherein I can while away a few hours watching whatever dreck happens to be on, it is now a taskmaster. My life is not only cluttered with unanswered e-mails, unreturned phone calls and unfinished novels, but entire seasons of television shows I feel I should watch but haven't and probably never will.

Fortunately for Tivo addicts like Daum and news junkies like us, there is help out there. Merlin Mann, of the immensely helpful and entertaining productivity site 43 Folders, wrote a piece on what he calls a "modest change" to ease the psychic burdens we place on ourselves by media overindulgence: cancel something. Whether it be a season pass for a show on Tivo, an RSS subscribtion, your Netflix account, or just chucking the TV or internet all together, he suggests taking a small step to reclaiming your time by deep-sixing one thing you've allowed to grab your attention. And while we sheepishly admit that we still tend to black out time to time from guzzling straight from the internet tap, we've been able to cancel a few things and actually get outside to see the sun.

So today's question for you is, do you feel that things like Tivo, Netflix, RSS, podcasts, and the endless pile of blinking messages that say watch me/read me/listen to me have taken over your lives? If you could cancel one or more of these things, what would it be (and please don't say Chicagoist)? And has anyone had success walling off the outside world completely for any amount of time?