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The beauty of disconnectedness - Ken Rodoff

 It's better to do something than to do nothing. Clay Shirky

I just loved this mini-rant left by Ken Rodoff (The Why of It All blog) to my post about Twitter last week:

Twitter is a thing. Just another thing.

Twitter use may represent a less-than-dedicated employee, but at home isn't it less of a time-suck than, oh, say, SL [Second Life]?

What I find most confusing is how people can dedicate so much time AFTER work hours,ATrant.jpg HOME! to SL, UStream, WeStream?

Am I the only one with kids? Am I the only one trying to have a F2F with my spouse (I mean, a lot of people sure do love the F2Fs, you'd think they practice them in their homes)? Am I the only one watching Lost? Hell's Kitchen? The Office? Please don't answer those last three...I'm well aware I live, at times, a less than esoteric existence...but I'm watching them with my wife, and we're even talking about them.

And what about reading? When's anyone getting that done?

All I know is that this soporific soul of mine needs / craves / begs for sleep. Begs for balance. Begs for an all-inclusive life, but every time I add one thing, I've jettisoned another.

Take the origin of this comment:

  1. Log on to Twitter
  2. Click on Darren Draper
  3. Click on the link to his blog
  4. Click on his 'hey, read this' little blue widget
  5. Read your post
  6. Think about your point
  7. Read the comments (okay, only two...wanna guess?)
  8. Type my comment

Total time so far (Verizon Fios Internet...just thought you should know): 12 minutes.

So, what did I lose over these past 12 minutes:

  1. The washer to dryer exchange that my load of darks so desperately craves.
  2. Making lunch for work tomorrow.
  3. Cleaning something in this house...anything in this house (myself included).
  4. A chance to talk with my wife as all 4 of my children sleep.
  5. A peregrination.
  6. The top of the 9th inning of the Red Sox - Twins game.
  7. The beauty of disconnectedness

And it's #7 here that irks me most of all because it's the constant addition of things that makes me realize how much I had in the first place.

When I think about Twitter I'm ashamed of myself. When I check Feedburner I'm mortified at who I've become. When I think about what I should blog about I near tears.

All of the aforementioned make me realize I've neglected my children, my wife, and in its purest form, my life.

Maybe I'll blog about it.

Advertise it on Twitter.

And see if my Technorati rank goes up.

Really now, just as Twitter asks: what are we doing?

Thanks, Ken. Your thoughts echo mine so closely it is almost eerie! (However I had to look up peregrination. Good word!) 

How we spend our leisure (or at least non-work time) is an interesting question. I was intrigued by Clay Shirky's observation*:

If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would've come off the whole enterprise, I'd say it was the sitcom. Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened--rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before--free time.

And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.

He continues:

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don't? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn't posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it's not, and that's the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.

Like Ken, I wonder if I spend too much time online at the expense of other activities. A friend observed that replying to each comment left on my blog:

... a personal comment just to say "thanks" [for leaving a comment] makes me wonder if the blogger actually has a life!

Well, I think I have a life. It doesn't include watching much TV, playing golf, or doing as much volunteer work as I should.  While Ken and I both have four kids, the LWW and I are empty nesters. (Whew!) So can we gauge by the amount of time we spend on line if we need to "get a life?"


Subjectively, we could place all our leisure time activities on scale. The low end might be watching Gilligan's Island re-runs (preferably while drinking a beer, wearing sweats, and in a prone position) and on the high end might be tutoring disadvantaged children, comforting lepers, or coaching one's daughter's hockey team. (I believe the last two also qualify one for cannonization.)


Blog writing, commenting, responding to comments is, I suppose, akin to pretending to be an elf. But if feels productive rather than consumptive and is one hell of a lot more entertaining than 95% of television programming.


I guess I would even Twitter before I would watch Desperate Housewives.


Are some uses of leisure time better than others?

 *Thanks to Tim Lauer for pointing out this video and transcription.


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Reader Comments (16)

Mmmmm, Mary Anne...

Sorry. What was the question?

Oh, free time. It's YOUR time. It's FREE. Deciding between Twittering (Tweeting?) or watching a ball game sounds equally silly and boring to me. I'm sure you would think what I do in my free time is boring and silly. Who cares?

And as for what we SHOULD be doing and mentioning all the volunteering, I've gotten over that too. I used to worry about it because volunteerinsm was a good chunk of my time before I got married, had a child and became a full time teacher. But my wife said to me one day, "Look, we're teachers. The amount of work we do there above and beyond the call of duty counts as volunteerism to me."
She's right! We were up to eleven las night working on self-imposed end-of-the-year projects for otur students because we're either dedicated or just nuts.

May 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

Well, we all make our own decisions. I don't watch TV, but I watch movies sometimes. And I read a lot. And I like to garden and feed the birds. and take pictures of stuff And listen to music. I'd be better at my job if I spent more of my non-school time on school stuff, but I'm not ambitious enough nor young enough to care. Oh, and I hang out with my grandchildren and their parents and listen to their dad play piano and talk about his art projects, and I go to the little guys' and girl's ball games, because the kids grow up so fast. And sometimes I like to write letters. And I have to keep in touch with my sons who live far away, not to mention my elderly mother. I don't do SL and can't imagine getting involved in Twitter, and I don't keep up my work blogs very well (but at least I've stepped into the sea a bit), and I love my personal blogging. I volunteer for the Literacy council because I feel the need to try to help someone besides the (mostly) wealthy kids here at my school. And on and on. That's my rant. If we all rant then we'll get one thing we very much need from the Wonderful Web -- the assurance that our struggles with time are not our individual burden but something we all have. Thanks, Doug, as always, for your forum and encouragement. There's no One Right Way, is there? Just the daily muddle of life and trying to hold on to some kind of vision.
By the way, do you know of any EASY way to spell-check (typo-check) one's rants?)

May 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJane L. Hyde

Hi Ninja and Jane,

You both sound like decidedly sane and healthy persons with good values. Good to have at least a few of your type commenting on the Blue Skunk ;-)

Ninja, I have often felt that as an educator that I too was already making a contribution to society, giving up salary, position and time to make a difference. You make a good point and it is worth discussion.

Jane, I get automatic spell-checking when I use the comment feature on my blog using either Firefox or Safari as my browser. I am not sure if this is a function of the the browser, the website or the MacOS, but suspect it might be the OS since I seem to get spell check in all my apps.

All the best,


May 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

One of the things that drives my rants, specifically rants about technology, stem from the job I currently occupy.

As an Instructional Specialist / Tech Coach, there's overt and innate pressure to stay connected, to stay involved.

It's just so gosh-darn tiring and all-exhausting. I'm never caught up. I'm never fully 'connected'.

I find one new thing from a person who found that thing from another person who, of course, found that thing from another person, and by the time it hits me, I'm caught in an educational worm-hole:

I'm caught up, but what I just 'caught' is old. And, something new just came over Twitter.

I've wanted to say, 'this is enough', 'I don't need another thing', but the role and status of my job demands that I keep pickin, pluggin, and pullin new resources from a myriad of sources.

Maybe I just miss the simplicity of teaching (even though there's nothing simple about it).

May 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterken

First, it took me five minutes to figure out what the "'hey, read this' little blue widget" was on my blog. Another five minutes I'll never get back.

Second, I've added Ken Rodoff's name to the list of folks I'd like to meet.

Ken, you've written the thoughts of a great many of us out there. Thank you. It feels good to know that we're all in the same boat.

May 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDarren Draper

Wow, I think you've unguilted me (if Shakespeare could invent words...) I love Twitter, I keep it running through the day when I can. I find amazing ideas to use in my own classroom and in other teachers' classrooms. But it also makes me feel a little bit (make that a lot!) of an underachiever. I don't spend hours in SL. I don't write amazing blog posts. I don't belong to seven Nings or run worldwide projects.

Otoh, I cook dinners and I teach my kids to cook too (my 12 yo loves Rachael Ray!) My garden is messy, but productive both in flowers and vegetables (my kids help with those too). I have both parents and living grandparents whom we visit frequently. I sing in a choir, so does one son, and the other plays LL BB and my husband umpires. We have memberships and visit museums and zoos. I adore reading with my 8yo (serious HP fan) My older son loves to draw. We all enjoy Alfred Hitchcock movies.

Are my kids (the infamous) "digital natives?" I teach them what they need? Are they online? Sometimes? They even Skype their cousins. Are we isolated cases? I guess not if Darren and Ken are hanging out in the garden with me. Tomatoes anyone?

May 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnne (whynot88)


The Lewis CarrolL line: " Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

I think it is the job of the Warlicks, Jukes and Richardsons to be the horizon scanners and bleeding edge people. We should evaluate their findings and pick what we think will work to the benefit of our students and teachers.

Nobody with a day job can keep up!


May 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson


Seems we have a collection of "balanced" readers. Glad you are "un-guilted!"


May 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Great post. I too am struggling to find a balance. I actually view my time on line as relaxation. As a fairly new high school principal I am coming to hate the month of May. Of 30 days in this month I have school events that require my attendance on 20 of those days in the evenings. That always amounts to a 14-15 hour day. Uggh! At least June is around the corner and I can't wait for the first week of August. I am going somewhere to completely unplug! Some secluded beach that time has forgot. Just me the wife and the kids.

May 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie A. Roy

A man definitely need a sort of asylum for himself to relax and reflect. Otherwise how can he stay sane?

May 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIreq

I, too, went to library school when God's dog was a puppy. My first email was with FrEd Mail! I find this whole technology thing fascinating and I guess I need to get a life - my Second Life?? (still thinking on that one) I continue to conform to the same basic library design principles I was taught 30 years ago and they are right on target with your initial introduction. I do, however, view the "community access,""flexibility," "traffic control" and "visual control" with an entirely different perspective - more global these days. Even in a middle school, I find it necessary to provide services to my students virtually, as well as, physically. I also, believe that my students are more engaged in learning when I can provide an environment they can relate to and understand. Thus, I continue to peck away on my MAC reading all the enlightening blogs by the technology gurus such as yourself! I continue to Twitter, blog, and checking out all these other fun Web 2.0 adventures, trying to fulfill my commitment to my students by providing a "quality education" that will guide them in becoming accountable and efficient users of information.

May 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda Branson

"I'm caught up, but what I just 'caught' is old. And, something new just came over Twitter.

I've wanted to say, 'this is enough', 'I don't need another thing', but the role and status of my job demands that I keep pickin, pluggin, and pullin new resources from a myriad of sources."

Oh, Ken. Go over to 43folders and listen to my friend Merlin. He was ranting about Titter not long ago. I think when it comes to social networking, it's good to take a "one in, one out" approach. How many of those things do you really need? If this new one is better, then lose the old one to keep sane. You are in control of the number of inputs in your life. You don't HAVE to read everything that comes through your feed reader or watch everything your TiVo picks up. It's there for when you want it, for entertainment, for whatever level of connectedness you wish. It's not an obligation.

May 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

I thoroughly empathize with what Ken Rodoff is saying. Thanks Ken... what a great description of my life as someone who supports technology in a school. I went and watched the video linked here and it is really interesting. The only problem is that I ONLY watched that much TV when I was a kid and did not have other responsibilities. It seems that for most of my adult life I have not watched much TV at all and now that I watch a few things it is because I am brain dead and couldn't research an article for Wikipedia, blog or anything and I WANT to be a passive consumer.

I love the mouse story though... I think I will write about it in my blog.... It really connects to my thoughts about how we (maybe even our brains) are changing.


May 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJanice Friesen

I think it's important to keep things in perspective. And how broad your perspective is can make a difference. I see these new tools (twitter, blogging, web2.0, etc.) as a sign of collective intelligence emergent... so the folks I follow on twitter become an extension of my brain, a kind of "mnemonic prosthesis." It's important to be aware of your surroundings of course (are your kids clammering for attention? is your wife sitting on the couch looking bored? if so, then maybe it's time to switch off!). But like you say, some of these activities are better than merely consuming bad TV.

May 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Smyth

Ah huh! Another guilt trip/panicky realisation about time passing and how we SHOULD be spending our time? I prefer to call my investment in what catches my attention random adventurous time allocation, and indulge it as such. Perhaps though, it's salutary to keep in mind what Steve Jobs said in that commencement address, if I knew today was to be the last day I had to live, would I do what I'm planning for this one? (or something like that).

May 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKate Foy

Hi Kate,

I love your outlook at this.

I suspect few of us would do what we did today if knew it would be our last day. But if I did what I really would do thinking it was my last day and then it turned out there was another day after it, I would be in deep do-do.

Thanks for the comment!


May 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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