It seems that the more technology I accumulate around myself, the less meaningful work I get done. I used to be able to write a story every week on my typewriter. Now, I’m lucky if I get past checking my email accounts, blog feeds, and facebook statuses.
Then, for some reason, as if I weren’t distracted enough already, I got the grand idea of checking out Second Life. Now, that has sucked up pretty much any free time remaining to me.
Oh, but it is fun! And it’s satisfying, this feeling of being thoroughly engaged, always something to check up on, always someplace to go -- without leaving your chair. And at the end of the day, I have no piles of paper bearing down on me, as I did in the old typewriter days. Am I worse off for not having told a story in the old, traditional medium? Would anyone have read it?
In Second Life, I can listen to a concert performed by folks playing together from three different continents. I can chat with Australians and Englishmen and South Americans all at the same time. I can be told off by an irate Detroiter in one window while psychoanalyzing a graphic designer with low self esteem in another. I make friends with people from around the globe, and suddenly I’m concerned about what time zones people live in. What time is it in Poland? In Peru? There are friends there I want to talk to, when will they all be on?
Second Life is rather like World of Warcraft, only instead of all the dull leveling up and treasure hoarding, there’s conversation, art, and music. Not all of the highest caliber, of course, but that’s true of everything. As Ted Sturgeon said, “97% of Science Fiction is crap. But then, 97% of everything is crap.”
My Puritan Guilt has me thinking this new time-sink is a terrible development. If I go after the Nanowrimo trophy this year, I’ll have to set Second Life aside for November.
Ah, but I am still holding down a full-time job, finding time to visit the folks on occasion, scratching the dogs on the head several times a day. And I’ve even gotten outside to replace that broken window-pane and re-putty one and a half whole window sashes. (Only 20 and a half more to go!) I’m going to play the moderation card on this one, just as with booze and tobacco, and say it’s all right.
Will we continue reading stories in the century to come? Storytelling survived radio and television, although it was certainly changed. But now that the words-on-paper format seems stuck in precipitous decline, just what forms will our fictions take in the future? And will we miss the old ones? Can culture survive a population that is aware only of distractions and diversions, and never focused on real content? How can we remain aware of current events when there’s a party going on every minute?
If Romans had computers, would the end of their world have looked a little like this?