Sunday, June 26, 2011

Does it count as a double blind study if I'm drunk the whole time?

Hi, my name is Tristyn, and I'm addicted to Google Reader.

I have 233 subscriptions (there are 11 different blogs under my "Tobacco" tag alone), scroll through on average 600 - 800 posts a day, and, I realized, retain precious little of what I read. So! A few weeks ago, I decided to give it up for 10 days-- not a very long period of time, but long enough for me to notice some changes in my habits.

For one, I read a lot more, proper books! That was wonderful. I also noticed that I basically didn't use computers at all once I banned myself from Reader, especially since I have a smart phone, and thus can check email, gchat, and look up any necessary information on its browser. This has interesting implications for future hardware purchases, to say the least.

The blogs and whatnot I subscribe to aren't all feckless drivel, mind you, but I found what I missed most was feeling "informed". I'm definitely a news junkie, but couldn't be bothered to read any newspapers or what-have-you to keep up; that habit was too alien. I chafed most whenever friends would discuss the primary (and really, what else is there to discuss in this great wide world), but having come back now it's very clear that I missed very little. This piece by Ben Dolnick quite accurately sums up my feelings about the entire matter (it's hilarious and scarily on the nose, highly recommend it), and I recognize that really, while I do think it's important to be politically aware yada yada, the kind of newswatching I do is of no more consequence than obsessively following sports statistics.

I found that I was much more likely to actually read posts/articles that were emailed to me or posted on my Facebook wall, relatively "starved" for contemporary content as I was. Yep, I'm admitting it: if you email something to me or a panlist I'm on, the chances aren't super high that I'm going to read it-- trying to be better about that now, though.

I also realized that I have no idea what most of the blogs I read are called. Reader just mashes them all up into a convenient little feed, and while in the moment I'll note the author or the source, if I wanted to recall later where I'd read such-and-such about Hieromonk so-and-so, I'd have to either wade through the archives or try to remember a few key phrases and conduct a search. Whether I read something on The Vigilant Citizen or Hit & Run is not an irrelevant fact (or hell, Pactum Serva contra Leitourgeia kai Qurbana, though admittedly the times when there'd be room for that kind of confusion are probably rare).

Finally, the social aspect: I follow 30 something people on Reader, and my favorite feature is definitely sharing and commenting, particularly as most of them live in DC (or elsewhere, I think there are other places in this country, right?) and I don't get to see them very often (and especially now, as New Haven is rather depopulated in the summer). I don't understand Reader users who don't join a hive.

So all in all it's been fruitful, and I am trying to cut back a bit, read my subscriptions more actively instead of just skimming everything and retaining nothing, and consciously make more time when I close the laptop and just read a damn book.

So now I'm going to give something else up for ten days: beer.

This might sound silly to you, as I'm sure there are plenty of people who go ten days without drinking beer and don't even notice it. I, however, have taken to drinking beer pretty much daily for the past few months, and that is good neither for my wallet, nor my waistline, nor my soul-- and of course, I don't want to be the sort of person who drinks more beer than hard liquor, which is rapidly what I'm becoming.

After that, I'm considering in some order giving up the following things: Pandora/iTunes (ie all non-liturgical music), makeup (which will be incredibly difficult for me), jewelry, perhaps alcohol altogether, and perhaps something like cutting back to only 5 cigarettes/day (right now I try to keep to half a pack a day). Any other suggestions? Anything food related wouldn't be terribly interesting, as I'm rather used to that sort of thing and don't find it difficult or strange.


  1. I've been paring down on subscriptions now that I'm working. I also find that I never really miss the Atlantic blogs I read when I have to click "Mark All as Read" so maybe I'll jettison Sullivan at some point. There's too much overlap in my tech blogs to legitimately keep up with all of them, and I don't have the excuse of trawling for my senior essay to wade through all that repetitious content.

  2. Yeah, I don't bother subscribing to folks like Sullivan or Yglesias because if they write anything important I figure someone else will share it. I also don't subscribe to any newspapers.

    Only recently did I let myself start using the "mark all older than a week as read" button-- I am terrible at letting things go, though this experiment is helping. Keeping my count below 1000 is a struggle, ha. Once in a while I will be attacked by a fit of caprice and will mark all older than a day as read; those are crazy times.