Resolution: Cut back on screen time

Mullen It Over

Posted

The year is 1994 and it takes a full minute to connect to the unthinkably slow 24 kilobytes per second World Wide Web.

At the time, one could access the internet at the public library or take advantage of the 30 minutes of free time provided by the industry leader, America Online (AOL).

These are my first memories getting online and I was eight at the time.

And I had two brothers (still do) and we each had a 30-minute time limit to access all the web had to offer.

From what I recall there was a lot of Berenstein Bears (Feel free to write me about this, I’m sure it’s a conspiracy, they’ve changed the name. It’s Berenstein, not Berenstain!).

The internet of the 90s was a tool – the world at your fingertips.

The searches were endless.

Do you remember Ask Jeeves? You could ask him anything and he’d have an answer. Sure, it might not have anything to do with your search, but it was an answer.

Flash forward six years and Y2K had us wondering if the world was going to end.

“Make sure to unplug all of your computers,” the media warned, “there is going to be a massive cyberattack that’s going to wipe out all of the computers.”

People were building underground bunkers and all because Microsoft, in their 1980s wisdom, designed their internal clocks on a two digit annual system, so once it got past 1999, the next year would be represented as 1900, not 2000.

As my family was already then in the newspaper business, we were by then slaves to Apple, whose operating system was clocked with four digits, thank you Steve Jobs.

But in the end (the beginning of the new millenium, I should say) nothing really came of it.

Fast forward less than two decades and we can’t help but wonder what would we do without these essential tools that now have most of us connected, at light speed, 24 hours every day.

Our emails and texts (they hardly existed then) send and reply with such immediacy it’s hard to imagine that we didn’t check our messages every day of the week.

Flash back again to 2006 and we are all introduced to an exclusive new way to communicate: Facebook.

By following that business model’s lead, the internet has evolved from a charming tool that allowed an 8-year-old to access stories on a digital screen to a tool that enables corporations, white supremacists and jihadists to access our life stories, not for free but actually at a profit.

The year is 2018 (for another day or so) and you and I are now their product.

Every search you make is stored and sold by Google, Facebook or any other big-name website you’re probably visiting for free.

It’s a simple truth: If you’re not paying for the content, then you are the content.

So consider this New Year’s resolution:

If you’re thinking of giving something up for the new year, let it be an hour of the internet every day.

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