Computers Make Me Waste Time

We have bought into the fiction that computers actually save time.

This is not true. Some time-wasters are inherent in computers. Others are our own fault.

Two decades ago, I picked up a morning newspaper and devoted perhaps 15 minutes to reading its contents. En route to work, I had already tuned into the on-the-hour local news from Sunny 106, and had listened to a snippet of National Public Radio news from around the state, the nation and the world, using time that could not be used for anything else besides listening and driving. So within 15 minutes, I was caught up.

Today, I check the e-edition versions of two daily newspapers, taking perhaps ten minutes apiece. One is the Courier-Express of DuBois, which tells me what I need or want to know about where I live and nearby communities. The other is the Times-Observer of Warren. Warren was my hometown. I find the Times-Observer’s obituaries to be depressingly important, as Father Time and the Grim Reaper take their inevitable toll on people who have been my contemporaries.

Two decades ago, I stopped getting the print edition of the Warren newspaper because of the Postal Service’s delivery vagaries: two copies on Monday, none on Tuesday, three on Wednesday, none on Thursday, two on Friday, etc. And they were not always in order.

Two decades ago, I simply went without a second local newspaper, relying instead on friends and family who still lived in Warren to inform me of any significant news.

That is a loss of five minutes a day, right there.

“But wait!” as they say on TV. “There’s more!”

Thanks to the Internet, I now browse on-line news sites. Boy, do I browse: BBC News, Israel Hayom, Deutsche Welle, Keystone Report, Huffington Post, Drudge Report, CNN, Fox News, Gant Daily, Explore Clarion, Explore Jefferson.

That takes a half-hour.

The material is interesting. But much of it is duplication of facts, with variations in “spin.” Only the BBC and Deutsche Welle seem to still strive for objective reporting. The rest slant thisaway or thataway. I like to see what the “spin” is, to find out how gullible most of my fellow Americans are these days.

But I have now lost 35 minutes.

Then my Internet browser wants my attention. Most of the time, I use Firefox, an open-source Mozilla product. Habit and familiarity, I guess.

But Firefox seems to need to be updated nearly every week. That’s another five minutes. Adobe Flash Player also needs to be updated. That takes another five minutes. Microsoft Office chimes in with something like, “If you do not update this, a security lapse will allow Vladimir Putin to peer into your living room!” Put them all together and average them out to another five minutes a day.

Now, I have lost 40 minutes, thanks to my computer.

And I haven’t even opened up Facebook.

I love Facebook’s ability to keep me abreast of the happenings in the lives of family and friends. But on an average day, it takes me 20 minutes to chew through, largely because, to nobody’s surprise, I cannot resist commenting: “Attaboy!” to an achieving grandchild. “Hogwash!” a Fox News robot. I also provide old-codger history: “That used to be a laundromat,” on a site devoted to memories of growing up in Warren.

So in 2016, my computer costs me an hour more in time than I used to devote to such stuff in, say, 1996.

That is progress?

Sure, my computer can do a lot more than I could do in 1996, and do each specific task in less time.

But my computer enslaves me into doing many more things than I did in 1996.

Do I need to know what is going on in Israel or Germany? Probably not, at least not on a daily basis. But I like to find out. I used to use the Internet to find out what was supposedly going on in Russia and in China, too, until I realized that I was actually getting propaganda – what they wanted me to think was going on – instead of news.

Eventually, I yank myself away from the computer to go feed the chickens. That takes the same amount of time today as feeding chickens has taken since time immemorial.

A few months ago, we had another “Aha!” moment. We discontinued our TV satellite service. We don’t miss it a bit. We got back some time we used to spend thinking that we were being entertained or informed when actually we were being induced into buying stuff.

Can I do something similar with respect to the time I spend on my computer?

Sure.

But not just yet.

I need to check back on Facebook to see if anyone has posted a meme about something I have no need or want to know, but I will read it anyhow.

How time flies.

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Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: denny2319@windstream.net