I can’t count the number of times I’ve been exhausted after a day of working, housekeeping, and child rearing, and just wanted to get into bed to sleep. But before I would drag my weary self upstairs, I would think, “Oh, I’ll just check my email first.” And then, before I know it, the owl on my Audubon bird clock in the kitchen is hooting midnight, and I’m still at the computer.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the computer is just another addiction. I’ve never been into smoking, or alcohol, or drugs, or even caffeine. I don’t have what I’ve heard called an “addictive personality,” which relies on outside substances to wake me up in the morning, keep me going, or get me to relax. But the computer has become something entirely different.
Billed as a “time-saver,” it’s true that the computer, with email, word processing, and the Internet, enables me to keep in touch with my family and friends on the other side of the world, look up obscure facts in a trice, work from home, and write posts like this one to be read by anyone else who has time to kill. Until computers came along, I was content with the occasional phone call or letter, ignorance about all kinds of subjects, and working from home and blogging were virtually unknown to me. But what I really find is that with the convenience comes a hankering to spend even more time on the computer, taking me away from my kids, my other responsibilities, and my sleep. In the end, what I have found is that to a large degree, the computer is an even bigger time-waster. Last Friday, I knew that my work had been buttoned up for the week, there was nothing in the news that I felt a strong urge to follow, and anything else could wait until Sunday. We were having guests for dinner that night and I had to bake for a neighborhood seudah shlishit, so intent as I was on cooking with no distractions, I left the computer turned off all day. The result? Except for one stovetop dish, I was finished cooking by 12:30, filled the hot water urn, dusted the shelves in the dining room where my Shabbat candles and the kids’ artwork is displayed, checked my kids’ heads for lice (zero for four, thank God), took a leisurely bath, and read the paper for a little while. No rushing at the last minute before candle-lighting, no writing emails until I smell something burning in the oven that I forgot about, no showering in the dark after the Cap’n has gone to shul. It was luxurious. The computer may save me time for some things, but on Friday, NOT using it is the real time-saver.
I realize some parents severely limit their children’s daily screen time (TV and computer). I think this is a great idea—so great, in fact, that I think I should probably exercise it on myself, too.