Thursday, September 12, 2013

My life on the screen

I've had a migraine headache for the past 24 hours (my first full-blown migraine ever). It goes away for a time and then seems to get re-sparked if I happen to look at the edge of a bright light, or I bend down or I look too long at a computer screen. (I am typing this now without looking up).

This has made me ponder what life would be like if I never used a computer again. Perhaps I could go back to paper/pen and typewriter for my own personal writing. But I've realized that so much of the rest of my working and social life now depends upon access to a computer screen. I edit publications that are housed only on the Internet; some of the articles I write and/or edit never even make it to paper—there remain forever virtual. And I have also been working occasionally as a substitute reference librarian—spending the majority of my time not walking amid hundreds of shelves of books, as the image suggests (or, please, shushing people), but in front of a computer screen, looking up the whereabouts of book titles and information.

Without access to a computer, I wouldn't be able to earn a wage, at least not in the way I have for the last 20 years. If this headache doesn't go away, I wonder what work remains that is untethered to a computer. I suppose I could weed plants, babysit children or clean houses—things I did in college for money or bartering deals. But I can't think of any well-paying intellectual work that doesn't involve my looking into what right now is this liquid-crystal source of pain.

How strange that so much of my life is confined to this 20-inch display—or that I think I have access to the world when I am really just sitting in my chair, moving my fingers along a small rectangular piece of plastic.

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