I frequently see study results presented as new blossoms from the human knowledge shrub, then realize they're just ancient freeze-dried cuttings stuck in a Fireside Girl's charming glazed pot. "Email apnea" got my attention the other day, in a Scientific American piece by Tia Ghose about aimless Internet browsing (newly invented maladies always get my attention). Here's a few excerpts from Why the Internet Sucks You in Like a Black Hole - A lack of structural online boundaries tempts users into spending countless hours on the Web..
Reading emails or hunching over a screen can...activate humans' fight-or-flight response, said Linda Stone, a researcher who has studied the physiological effects of Internet use. Stone has shown that about 80 percent of people (Saying 79.9 percent would save her 3 characters and a space, but that would seem like a lot less people) temporarily stop breathing or breathe shallowly when they check their email or look at a screen — a condition she calls email apnea. - Well then, people who thread needles, land airplanes, sneak up creaky stairways, see cops with radar guns (or cops readying themselves to Tase recalcitrant motorists), open registered mail from the IRS, or do anything requiring exactitude or self-preservation should already have Stone's attention, though that won't get her recognized as an on-demand professional Internet expert, so never mind. What of the multitudes of apneic people in front of cinema, television, convenience store deli and ATM screens? Same deal.
You've got mail - Humans are social creatures. (Damn. Really?) As a result, people enjoy the social information available via email and the Web. - As if telephones, the U.S. Postal Service, backyard fences and Friday night bingo were never used to spread gossip. At least Ghose explains the mystery of Facebook. That said, nowhere in the article does she credit AOL for the paragraph heading.
Email and social media have the same reward structure as that of a casino slot machine... people are wired to compulsively seek unpredictable payoffs like those doled out on the Web... If that sounds like you, don't feel bad: That behavior is natural, given how the Internet is structured, experts say. "...It's compulsive; it's compelling; it's distracting", said Tom Stafford, a cognitive scientist at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. - Is the Internet as "compulsive" as Tom Stafford, with his fondness for semi-colons and permutations of the word 'compel'? (Maybe I shouldn't talk - I like parentheses, dashes, slashes, ticks, run-on sentences and self-depreciating asides - but, I digress) Does his training in cognitive science qualify him as an "expert" on email and social media structure? Anybody can see these are recently developed extensions of preexisting social interaction methods.
No limits - Another reason the Internet is so addictive is it lacks boundaries between tasks, Stafford said. Someone may set out to "research something, and then accidentally go to Wikipedia, and then wind up trying to find out what ever happened to Depeche Mode," Stafford said, referring to the music band. - Ooo, no boundaries, can't have that - let's ban hypertext. But gee, I thought quick'n'easy information access was a good thing, but so is organization and discipline. I think it says so in the Code of Hammurabi. BBSes, CompuServe, Prodigy and AOL were structured environments not mentioned in the article - maybe I'm an expert for mentioning them. Seriously, are these experts offering us anything new regarding human nature, or practical solutions for easily distracted people that weren't adapted from out-of-print self-help books? Lots of things having nothing to do with the Internet can be of interest to the terminally distracted, except for the things they're supposed to be doing right now.
You never get away from the temptation," Stafford said. - How insightful, though an underestimation of human capacity.
Set boundaries - For those who want to loosen the viselike grip of the Web (maybe they really mean porn) on their lives, a few simple techniques may do the trick. Web-blocking tools that limit surfing time can help people regain control over their time (Yeah? Uninstalling them gives you even more control!). Another method is to plan ahead, committing to work for 20 minutes, or until a certain task is complete, and then allowing five minutes of Web surfing, Stafford said. - Web blocking tools? We're all kids now? At least the idea wasn't cribbed from Rita Emmett's Procrastinator's Handbook. Stafford's brief, hackneyed suggestion masquerades as a time-worn time-management tip; maybe Internet Exhaustion Syndrome has messed with his creativity.
Old movies sometimes depicted gossipy housewives spreading disinformation at the protagonist's expense via a new invention, the telephone, which attracted plenty of predictions of mal-use during its first decade or so. Proper telephone etiquette was promoted in theater ad inserts, popular magazines and schools. During the 1980s until the mid 90s, 'netiquette' was promoted to those newly online. Proper study habits and time management have been subjects of interest since before Aristotle. Tia Ghose includes only the very brief, unoriginal suggestions found on Google Books by cognitive scientist/on-demand Internet expert Tom Stafford for what she sees as "a lack of structural online boundaries" tempting users into "spending countless hours on the Web". Ghose's article is an exercise in mere sensationalism.
Well, gotta go - I wanna download a movie and some discographies from Pirate Bay while notifying Facebook friends about the new blog I'm editing. Damn, more inbox Viagra... crap, I didn't top my high score - Happy Wheels sucks.
...One more tidbit, because a black hole has stripped me of all discipline:
"Technology is all about eroding structure," Stafford told LiveScience. "But actually, psychologically, we need more structure, and those things are in tension." - Technology is about eroding "structure"? Maybe sandblasters and a hypothetical cloud of nano-nibblers with diamond encrusted grills can erode structure, but I guess that's not what he means. OK, Stafford's talking about a well-ordered day and the tendency of some people to waste theirs' drinking vanilla extract. Everybody knows how much tension that causes in a spouse preparing to spend an evening making banana cream pie.