Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2013/ Outdoor Computing

Outdoor Computing

I am writing this from Victoria Park. About half an hour ago some guy in a pickup truck drove by. As he drove by, he yelled "Get off of Facebook!"

I was already in an irritable mood, and this did not make me feel much better. I get drive-by comments on a semi-regular basis (usually when my beard is longer and I look more Muslim). I do not like that these cowards are not willing to stand behind their comments, which is why they drive off after yelling through the windows of their cars. All the same, this joker had a point and didn't have a point.

He was factually wrong; I was not on Facebook. Technically I was not even on the Internet. It would be nice to say that I was working hard on some work-related project, but instead I was reading blogs cached on my hard drive. In my mind that is not very different from being on Facebook, so the heckler gets half-marks at least. Instead of sitting outside staring at a computer screen, I could have been staring at ducks or reading a paper book or meditating or juggling, none of which I have been doing enough of since obtaining a laptop with a working battery. When I am outside, it is far superior to be fully present when outside rather than staring at a screen.

On the other hand, he was very wrong. Assume that his criticism had been factually correct. Staring at a computer screen may be a less worthwhile activity than juggling, but sitting outside looking at Facbook is a better activity than sitting inside looking at Facebook. We spend so many of our entertainment hours alone indoors. I think that overall we are better off when more people are outdoors enjoying themselves, even if that form of enjoyment consists of being on a computer (or cellphone) and staring at a screen. There is a continuum here: sitting down in a public park and surfing does not harm anybody, while surfing and walking can be dangerous (and surfing when you are supposed to be paying attention to another event such as a child's soccer game or watching a presentation is kind of obnoxious). If I had not gone outside with my laptop, I would have stayed inside with it, or I would have stared at different screens at work. I am not sure that would have been preferable to anybody. Even the coward in the pickup truck got some entertainment because I was outside.