Thursday, October 8, 2009


If I'm actually going to do this, or even seriously think about doing it, I guess I need to start with an exploratory study. How much time I spend online, and doing what. I can give you a rough answer to both: I am online every minute that I'm not offline. Usually, looking at google books, gmail, my university webmail, anything related to my research as a grad student or reporter, facebook, cnn, slate, salon, time, newsweek, arts and letters daily, blogger, sometimes the new yorker, gawker, hulu, fancast, casttv, occasionally linked in, administrative sites like or itasoftware, a mix of magazines or blogs that might have cool stories, and then whatever other sites catch my fancy the day. Oh, and craigslist. How could I forget craigslist.

But to get a more precise picture of my net habits and decide if I really am withering away in front of my computer, last night I installed TimeTracker, a Firefox add-on that does what its name says. I'm also going to save my browsing history and take stock in a week.

After installing the add-on, at first I wasn't sure what changed. The browser looked the same, there were no icons to click on or settings to adjust. And then I spotted it: a timer at the bottom right of my screen. An insidious little number that keeps getting bigger, making me feel self-aware and even a little scared that I really am spending too much time online.

To make this work, to get a totally accurate and honest snapshot of my habits, I have to forget about the timer.

Fortunately, I am what Romanians call "nesimtita" (neh-seem-TSEE-tah). This is a term of endearment Romanian parents use for their adolescent children, and in special cases the grown ones. The finer points get lost in translation, but here's the gist: "I spent 16 hours in labor for this? Refund, please!!!!!!" More specifically, it's used to describe people who are oblivious or indifferent in an uncharming way. For example, is someone who tries to swoowsh a used kleenex into the trashcan and misses, and then leaves the bacterial wad right there in plain view and walks away nonchalantly. Or someone who sets a glass of  icy water with condensation on the bottom onto a nice wooden table, thereby marking the table with a ring, and does so neither accidentally nor on purpose, but because she can't be bothered to care. Sorry, mom.  (But "nesimtita" is not when you wave your hands in the air like you just don't care. That's okay. Just so you know.)

But being a "nesimtita" has its pluses. Besides incurring parental wrath, it also means things don't get to you. Guilt doesn't eat you to pieces. Worries slide off you like Dali clocks.

Because of this rare quality, I'm already barely noticing the timer, and I think that in a day or two, I'll have totally forgotten about it.

Today, I see that I've been online 4:57:46. Compared to other days, that's actually on the short side. There are two reasons. First, I spent most of the day at Peets writing my dissertation. I checked email and Facebook, and glanced at a few news sites every once in a while, but that was it. No browsing, just glancing. What can I say? The dissertation has me riveted.

The second reason is that my day was also on the short side.

I woke up at 2.

[by tingeliM]

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