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Shot In The Foot

Posted on Monday 22nd January 2007 at 00:00
Earlier this afternoon I was musing about how my life now differs from my life this time last year. It occurred to me that all in all, I felt like I had a lot more free time on my hands back then. I know it is common to view past events with a certain nostalgia that warps our perception of such memories until they seem like nothing more than happy dreams, but none the less I remained adamant that I had had more time back then than I do now.

Although a good deal of this reduction in free time can be put down to my being unemployed back then and the fact that I now go to all my lectures, rather than just considering going, I think I've found another cause for my new found shortage of time in which to be idle. The humble RSS Feed.

This little addition to the technology world, which came into my life right at the end of my second year of uni, was invented as a time saving device to allow the user to view information from many different web sites all in one place, rather than having to return to the origins of each news item to check for an update.

The trouble is that like almost all other bits of technology originally invented to make our lives easier, it hasn't had exactly the expected effect on my life style. The idea was that by using RSS feeds I could spend less time sourcing information each day and so could go off and do something different with my new found free time. In reality, I seem to have used it as an excuse for simply cramming more sourcing into the same period of time, not saving myself any time to do other things. I'm sure many people are seeing parallels here with the invention of the computer, the type writer, sliced bread, horse and plough, wheel etc.

Whereas before RSS I'd go to say the BBC News Front Page and pick out 5 or 6 articles to read which looked interesting each day, the RSS feed for the page presents me with 20 or 30 headlines that I have to browse through when I wake up in the morning, and even though I don't read all the stories, I find myself having the read each and every headline and consider its importance before I can decide about reading it. There are no pictures to capture my eye and nothing to tell me which are the important stories and which are ultra minor news.

In some ways this is good as it means I get to read articles I might never have otherwise come across, but on the other hand I now spend two or three times as long checking on the news as I used to. The same is true of blogs. Once upon a time I used to check maybe two or three blogs a day to see if they'd been updated. Now I have around a dozen in my common feed list, and because I can tell at a glance which ones have been updated I find myself going straight to each post and reading it then and there, regardless of how many there might be a day.

So, when I look back and wonder what has happened to the hours of my life I used to spend reading books and watching films I find, like so many before me, I've become a victim of the latest wave of technologies brought to us to 'improve? our lives.

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