This is the post that has been stewing around in my mind. That’s probably why I didn’t write it yesterday, because it wasn’t done cooking. My ideas don’t come out until they’re good and ready to.
This really goes back to when I got my new laptop about eight months ago and started using Word. The Auto Correct got me so bugged, because when I write, I write according to my rules, not Microsoft’s. And mine are usually correct where theirs are not, for the record (which is not to say I don’t make conscious choices to break them, because I do that when I feel it’s warranted). I was given an incredible education in grammar thanks to my first elementary school (in Pittsburgh). We began diagramming sentences in the third grade, my high school out westward didn’t broach that concept until Honors English in the tenth, I think. And of course I have major issues about anyone or anything changing my writing without my explicit permission. I’m going to be hell on an editor one day. :)
But I knew how to turn that feature off, so okay.
Here’s how that relates. Google Chrome is awesome for some things, one of them being that it underlines a word when you’ve misspelled it. In theory, this is handy. But not unlike Auto Correct, the predictive text feature on my phone, and every spell check/pre-designed electronic dictionary feature I have ever encountered, there are words that I use that Google Chrome doesn’t have in its repertoire. You can add words to the dictionary, which is nice. But more and more I found myself relying on it to just ‘click and fix.’ I would have it just change the word for me and not pay attention to what my mistake was.
I started making more and more errors. I thought it was due to my memory issues and general mental state.
One day, I don’t know what exactly prompted it, I stopped with the ‘click and fix.’ If I saw a word underlined, I would look at it and figure out how to fix it myself (I have always been an excellent speller, that probably would have been something good to include prior to this). From there I progressed to fully using my own brain, and when that couldn’t get it completely, a real, actual, print form dictionary. I heart my dictionary. It’s enormous and beautiful and I spent well over one hundred dollars on it thirteen years ago. I hunted and hunted until I found the perfect one. It’s a Merriam-Webster, for anyone who cares. I love Oxford, and one day I would love to get my hands on a copy of the complete OED, but Oxford is an English language dictionary – as in British English – and I live in the United States, so I write in American English (even though the British English variations so often look much more aesthetically pleasing).
So guess what has happened since then? I have been making fewer and fewer mistakes, and the ones I do make are usually because I’m not focused or my fingers are flying across the keyboard too quickly. It’s helped me have so much more confidence in my brain’s abilities.
As to other things online, I got into this terrible habit of leaving my email open while I wasn’t using it, so I would get a new message while I was trying to do something else, and even if I tried to ignore it, I would still lose my focus a little. I would leave tabs open which I didn’t need at the moment, all sorts of things that not only ended up making me crazy and distracted while online, but in life. I stopped doing that less than two weeks ago, and I am so much more focused and relaxed, generally.
I noticed something else, which is using the computer makes me sleepy but unable to sleep. Things like reading, or even watching a film, only make me sleepy when I’m genuinely tired, and I fall asleep easily (easily for me).
Of course computers and the internet have their positives. Documents are easier to edit and don’t have to be rewritten in their entirety longhand. You are given the ability to easily connect with loved ones states or even continents away – although I still say letters and phone calls beat emails and IMs any day. You have access to articles it would take you ages to locate at the library (love me some PubMed!), I’m not trying to bash the whole concept. But I know that in many ways computers and being online were making me lazy and contributing immeasurably to any cognitive deficits I am already dealing with.
Oh, and because I am a huge believer in full disclosure about the important stuff, I always use the proofread feature after I have written something. But if there is ever a doubt about what the computer says versus what I think is correct, I consult an impartial expert – my dictionary. :)
Moral of the story: Try relying on your own brain some time. You’ll be amazed what that sucker is capable of!
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