My filter cuts off the Internet at 9:30 p.m.
Had the Internet been on, I’d be doing anything to procrastinate writing this article: searching up the names of Mexican generals from the 1800s on Wikipedia, looking for just the right podcast on Radiotopia, reading stats on Baseball reference (You have got to see Joe DiMaggio’s home-run-to-strikeout ratio to believe it), or reading an article about how home-field advantage is not a thing. Next, it would be 1 a.m. and I’d still have no article.
I feel like the Internet holds lots of promise and convenience, but at the same time the Internet is a brilliant, infinite, winding road to nowhere, designed to prod the traveler further along without even realizing. This road has no stop-signs, traffic lights, speed limits, or time restrictions, and we do a very poor job at restricting ourselves spending 20-30 hours a week online.
People know to beware of the darker corners of the Internet. This is why people think they need filters and they would be partially correct. A few years ago, Dr. David Pelcovitz quoted a certain gadol as saying that if he had to choose between getting rid of social media, or the shmutz on the Internet, it would be better to get rid of social media. This counterintuitive nugget makes sense, considering that shmutz can be found in variety of places offline, but social media with all its potential for lashon ha’ra, ayin ha’ra, bullying, and worse is uniquely online and almost equally enveloping. Additionally, everybody knows that the shmutz is bad (They might not know that its availability online has led to life-destroying addiction, is much harder to resist online, and carries a long, long list of problems for those who get exposed to it), but people innocently and foolishly allow themselves to think that social media is fine for a variety of silly reasons.
My wife and I never jumped on Facebook. First it was for young people, and then it was for old people. Then it became a way to obsessively make everyone jealous of you (and ruin relationships), and now it’s just there to harvest human data and sell it to the highest bidder.
Twitter just seemed way to cool for us to use. Who wanted to hear what we had to say? We were saved from what comedian Michael Che refers to as “…a cesspool of everybody just yelling at each other. [where] Anger and extreme joy are the only voices that get heard… It’s like walking around with the district attorney and everything you say is just going to the district attorney.” Ditto Instagram, Snapchat, or anything else that my wife and I are not cool enough to know about.
Netflix was a problem for us. We grew up going to the video store and the novelty of mailing out CDs and creating a cue of movies we wanted to see was appealing. We mostly took in old 1980s sitcoms and documentaries, but when Netflix started streaming, it became tough to break free, especially when it had so many shows for our kids to watch. We made sure to not get a TV, but this just snuck into our home between our legs. We knew it was a contradiction to our spirituality and a waste of time, but it was hard to break free. We just had to tear off that Band-Aid when it became clear to us that we could not grow as Jews and have Netflix. Pressing Delete six years ago felt amazing (and scary).
I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t still miss “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic,” but the truth is that we broke loose at the perfect time. Soon after we canceled, Netflix’s original content started rolling out, sending up award-winning content and spawning a market that now has Disney, Amazon, and other companies scraping for a piece of the ga-zillion-dollar action.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who do not filter devices or turn a blind eye to dangers of social media, Netflix, games, shmutz, and more. Worse yet, they give it over to their kids, no questions asked. Online, there is always another link, always something else to check out, always another way to draw you in. I find it really, really hard to do work and avoid distractions even when the Internet has two hands tied behind its back. That’s why the time restrictions work for me in addition to a filter that blocks inappropriate content. If you are not sure of how much time you spend online, you can download a simple app called Moment. Moment tracks the amount of time you spend online. The results can be surprising.
The Internet is a road to nowhere and we decided to restrict our access. Being the procrastinator that I am, I still found ways to delay doing any work; I did laundry, I tried to explain football to my daughter (“Wait. I don’t understand who is trying to hit whom? Has anyone ever died playing football?”), I played solitaire, and I read a graphic novel about the Underground Railroad (“Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales”). I will do anything I can do to not do anything. Eventually, I end up doing something; only now, my non-production is kind of productive.
Part three of this article: My wife and I were lucky in that we sidestepped a slew of ways to take up our time, and we never fully incorporated an online lifestyle, but it still wasn’t enough. A few months ago we made more changes, and it has made all the difference for ourselves and our children.
Simcha Loiterman is a resident of Kew Gardens Hills. He is available for speaking engagements and presentations or a cup of coffee and a good talk. He would love to hear from you at email@example.com. He feels very strongly that you can learn from everyone because we all have stories to tell, lessons to teach, and can kindle a spark of goodness inside. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in “Life.” Visit his blog at thisisloit.wordpress.com to learn more of his ideas and opinions about our beautiful world.