Athens Review, Athens, Texas

July 6, 2013

JAYSON LARSON: The last thing I needed was one more distraction

Jayson Larson
The Athens Review

ATHENS — I’m going to tell you a secret, but I’d really like you to keep it to yourself.

I’m hooked on Pinterest. That website your wife can’t stop looking at? I can’t stop looking at it, either.

In case you haven’t heard, Pinterest is a site that allows you to “pin” good ideas, recipes, cool pictures, etc., to virtual bulletin boards. You can also share the good ideas of other users, saving them to your bulletin boards that are infinite in size.

Pinterest offers an unending source of information that, if you let it, can eat hours and hours of your time. And the good news is, like everything these days, there’s an app for it, too, meaning you can put it on your smart phone and take Pinterest with you to important locales such as the drive-thru line and the restroom.

Remember when we used to spend our spare moments thinking? 

Let me be clear. I’m not your typical Pinterest user. From what I can tell, the typical Pinterest user is very much like my wife. She pins cute pictures, girly clothes and fashion trends, exercise routines and recipes.

Me? I’m looking for cool gadgets, home design ideas and media-related tips and information. I also have not one, but two, black holes into which I can file items that I can’t quite categorize. I named those bulletin boards “Good Ideas” and “Cool Stuff.” So far, those folders have become very similar to the one I have in my e-mail at work called “IMPORTANT STUFF TO SAVE” — a folder I haven’t looked at in longer than I can remember.

Over the July 4th holiday, I sat at a table with my mother and told her I, too, have a Pinterest account. She was surprised and then quickly asked why I hadn’t sent her a request to “follow” her pins. That would mean that everything she pins, I would see on my page. My manly page.

I politely declined after she told me she loves to pin pictures of cute puppies and that, as of Thursday, she’s pinned or re-pinned (posting a pin to your page that someone else had previously posted) more than 11,000 items.

After all, I’d hate to have to wade through pictures of cute puppies sleeping next to cute kittens to get to my pictures of the coolest man caves in the world.

 It’s too easy to let things like Pinterest and Twitter and Facebook consume us. And I’m afraid my generation — the mid-30s crowd and those in the same neighborhood — started the fire when we were young. Ours was the first generation to trade in playing outside for video games. Atari was neat, but Nintendo changed a culture in America forever.

So many from the World War II generation had the “thousand-yard stare,” that numb, empty expression caused by witnessing the horrors of war. These days we have the “16-gigabyte digital drool.” You know, that empty, only-half-listening trance we fall into when we’re immersed in our electronic devices.

A recent article — yes, that I found while perusing my Twitter feed — spelled out just how lost in cyberspace we are. According to Business News Daily, a survey showed “ ... the average Internet user spends 23 hours a week e-mailing, texting and using social media and other forms of online communication.” That’s close to 15 percent of our week.

The article goes on to state that 54 percent of the survey respondents said they have tried to decrease their reliance on technology in the past year in favor of in-person contact.

Trying to decrease our reliance on technology sounds as easy as trying to decrease my consumption of shaved ice during the summer months.

Our dependence on the Internet is crazy and we say we can’t do without it. Yet I’ve been to Africa twice in the past three years, where Internet is generally found only in pay-per-minute cafes, and I never seemed to miss it. Imagine a world where your pocket isn’t chiming with text messages and incoming e-mail. It was like living in (gasp) 1995!

But we all know knowledge is power, and there’s a heck of a lot of knowledge being dispersed on the Internet. Knowledge we just can’t do without.

You know, like all that stuff we find on Pinterest.

Jayson Larson is editor of the Athens Review. Contact him at editor@athensreview.com.