Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Manic Internet Use? Italy v. USA

Sunday's night spat with my husband reflects itself in the same day's New York Time's article, "Breakfast Can Wait. The Day’s First Stop Is Online." My Italian husband was upset that I had spent too much time on Sunday on the computer, checking various sites including the social network, Facebook. Today I found a friend's link to this eye-opening article about the changes in family etiquette regarding Internet and computer use.

The writer, Brad Stone, reveals that Americans are increasingly jumping to their computers as soon as they wake, which affects their morning efficiency and sometimes their quality time with the family, during breakfast or other meals. Often the family components are divided between separate rooms and computers, consulting email, social networks or playing video games even before their first cup of coffee or bowl of cereal. A surge is being registered in Internet use at 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, according to Arbor Networks, a Boston company that analyzes Internet use.

With that said, I find that I am in a small personal conflict by living here in Italy. At bedtime here, the US computer action on Sunday is at its best. I can get responses to emails and social network comments in virtual real-time. This is compared to the more common, lethargic response lapses of several hours due to my typical daily postings in the morning or at lunch (while Americans are asleep) and their responses which appear several hours later (after my bedtime). The quick-time play of our computer keyboards across continents and oceans makes it irresistible to stay up late, remaining connected to Internet, and lunge for the computer in the morning, curious about what might have been written in my absence. Plus, many of these beloved American correspondants, I cannot see in person for months or years at a time so their virtual notes take on more powerful meaning.

Our habits are changing. If I am not composing an email on the computer, my husband is using it to play a video game as part of his relaxation. There is always a reason to be in front of the computer screen, it seems.

Italians are not quite as connected to Internet as Americans, in my opinion, but they are catching up fast. The computer revolution took several more years to get here. Some Italians have come up with the expression, "Meno Internet, più Cabernet" (Less Internet, more Cabernet) to combat today's trend. However, text messaging is the true addiction of choice in the bel paese. Italy has the highest per capita of mobile phones in Europe, if not the world. Pre-adolescents are receiving their first phones at 10 and quickly abusing them shortly thereafter with incessent text messaging. The grave problems are seen in the Italian classrooms, where the students do not keep their mobiles switched off, not even during official tests, and sometimes receive test answers via text messaging from their dear parents, of all people!

Contemporary society is always connected to a plug or wi-fi. In July, Venice announced its wi-fi services in campos and many other public places for locals and tourists. It has changed the character of a Venetian visit because now you can see people parked in front of their laptop in the campos' benches, consulting Internet instead of chatting with friend, side-by-side or licking a drippy gelato.

Times are a'changin'

C'est la vie

--excuse my French on this blog about Italy

NYT article link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/10/technology/10morning.html?_r=1


  1. Sometimes I wish I don't spend as much time as I do on the interenet, alas, I do. But to my defense, it can be very educational, and informative. As I am always away from family and friends, checking Facebook provides me a photo of my couson's newborn, or my friend's vacation album. I don't really play any games, mostly blogging and netwrorking about food and travel. See, it isn't too bad. And I am gald my husband doesn't complain:)

  2. Of course Internet offers an abundance of positive things, and pictures of friends are a highlight. We all just need to make sure we balance this virtual world with the real one. Nothing beats face-to-face time, right?