November 6, 2010

What Limits Do You Set?

In today's Blue Skunk posting (actually a re-posting of an earlier work), Mr. Johnson deals with the joys and frustrations of balancing his online reading (jumping from post to post and link to link) with more long form reading.

Roger Ebert has mentioned this a few times in his journal about how, due to medical problems, he spends nearly all his time online since he can no longer have much in the way of face-to-face conversations.  But he's always been a big reader and so when he wants to read he will go into a completely different room, away from the temptation of his MacBook, and read happily without distraction.

What limits do you put on "screen time" to read or just enjoy your family and not end up constantly tweeting/texting/feed reading, etc. at every possible moment?

I'm not talking about people like Ms. Yingling or Jen Robinson.  They clearly don't care for television or much in the way of online reading other than to tear their eyes away from a book long enough to blog about it.

I'm talking about people, like myself, who enjoy reading books but also like online resources, the occasional television show or movie, playing with my daughter and chatting with friends (including my best friend a/k/a My Lovely Bride).

I have even less time and inclination to surf online at school as a school librarian.  I check my feed reader every morning along with my emails and such, but mostly to just delete the chaff and keep the wheat for later consumption (sometimes to be read at lunch if I'm not too busy with other things).

Also, being a school librarian has made me want to read more kids books and you may have noticed my blogging is mostly about those right now.  So I actively try to give myself more reading time.  I've told my family that I now consider it my homework.  When my daughter is practicing piano and doing her homework and/or  MLB is grading papers I'll often read (if I'm not working on lesson plans).  And I'll purposely read kids books because I both want to increase my knowledge of them for my job and I enjoy them.  I've been reading the list of books for our district's Reader's Rally along with well-reviewed newer fiction or classics I've never gotten around to so I can be a better librarian.  I do still squeeze in an occasional gown up book, but have been spreading those out more as I concentrate on the kids stuff.

Ways I've limited my online time: I don't have a Twitter or Facebooks account.  I spend some time every few months looking at my "trends" tab on my Google feed reader and weed out some of the blogs, trying to keep my online reading manageable.  I also don't really participate in the few Nings I've joined over the years.  I only watch shows on my DVR and those that MLB and I both want to watch together.  Well, those and Mythbusters with my daughter.  That's always a blast.

I have to limit stuff both for the ADD reasons mentioned at the BLue Skunk blog but also because I'm just not as fast of a reader as pretty much every female I know.  What is it with you girls?   MLB can knock out 4 kids books in the time it takes me to read one!  But that's okay.  It's fun and I like it so I guess that's the point.  You'll make time for the things you think are important and you enjoy.  If not you'll end up like my friend Merlin Mann.  We were lit. majors in college together and he has admitted (on his 43folders blog) that if it weren't for DailyLit he probably wouldn't read any books.  He's totally into the online stuff.  Now it's certainly not making him any dumber.  He's probably at minimum a hundred times smarter than I am.  But he was such a good long form reader that I find it a little sad that he doesn't still pursue the occasional fat novel.  Although I've read a few things on DailyLit and there's absolutely nothing with spreading out something like that.  In fact, I probably don't get through four books as fast as my wife because I'm often rotating between six at a time.  If I just did one at I time I might be "better."  But that's the way I roll.  Merlin just rolls it a different way.

David Denby, in his Great Books, mentions the struggles he had going back to Columbia in his 40s to re-read "the canon" and to write the book.  As a film critic he realized it took him a few weeks to stretch his attention and patience to be able to engage properly with that kind of challenging-but-rewarding reading.  Use it or lose it, I guess.

Blue Skunk blog

Roger Ebert's Journal

Ms. Yingling Reads

Jen Robinson's Book Page



C.B. James said...

I spend too much time on-line. In my defense we do not have cable so no broadcast television just to fill the void in our house. We do watch both Hulu and Netflix.

I used to do two hours of reading a night, which was great. I loved that, but haven't been able to do it this year because I have much more school work than I did before.

Jen Robinson said...

Believe it or not, I do struggle with this these days. I am on Twitter, and I tend to fill small free moments with that, since I can do it on my cell phone. Audiobooks are a big help for me, letting me turn other time into reading time. But the real truth is that since I've had my baby (7 months ago), I don't have a lot of time for reading or blog reading. But this makes me sad, and I hope to squeeze in more reading time as she gets a bit older... Being able to read quickly is a gift that I don't take lightly. And, like you, I only watch TV if it's something on my DVR - I have no interest in just randomly turning on the TV to see what's on.

Good chatting with you!

Jim Randolph said...


Well I couldn't tell you had slowed down by reading your blog! Sorry about all the schoolwork, though. I'm busier and work longer hours, but have very little to bring home, so I'm lucky in that way.


Audiobooks rock. David Sedaris said, "I wouldn't fight for my freedom, but I'd fight for my iPod!"

I know that it's hard with a little one. My wife and I got little sleep for the first two years! Don't worry, it gets better.

I think that's the best thing about DVRs. No more flipping channels. Either there's something I love on or there's not and I have time to read (or goof around online).

Great hearing from you!


betweenthesepages said...

Like you, I have no online time during the day. As a teacher I do have a school issued computer (for which I am eternally grateful) but I won't do anything online unless it's with my students, so I end up a little information starved when I first get home. I really do enjoy the internet, I have a message board I participate in, but like you, no twitter, no facebook which I think is probably all that keeps my internet time manageable these days.

My problem is, that despite having set places I like to visit on the internet, I find it somehow sucks me into wasting time - something I almost never feel about a book. I mean most of the time if it's a kid's book I don't like, it's okay because I can tell other people and save them the trouble of reading it, and if it's an adult book, I can just stop. But when I look up from a book and the time has flown I never feel empty or guilty. Not at all so with the internet.

Ms. Yingling said...

I get in early to read blogs and reviews and add orders to my various catalogs, and I think it makes me more up-to-date when I talk with the students. Really, though, my life is all about BOOKS, so 99% of what I do online is about books. Facebook creeps me out, and I'm just too old for most of it!