… particularly when we’re purposefuly opting out of the upper-right? (OK, better said: trying to steer clear from the right quadrant altogether)

Let me explain, David White’s interesting representation of our lives online started with the continuum between visitor – resident, personal-professional matrix, bringing about very valid points about how we choose (?) to spend our life online. And I’m questioning the choosing part because at some point it feels more like we’re just directed to live more digitally, whether we want / like it or not.

While I found the approach for tapping into the bottom-right quadrant (resident-professional) interesting and quite relevant given the direction that education is taking, I couldn’t help frowning wondering about the counterweight arguments to spend less time online, from plain ergonomics and mental health, to data management and how our virtual lives are stripping us off of whatever privacy we’d like to have. Digital literacy MUST include information about how we can protect our data and not having it used against us (I really don’t need 100 ads prompting me to buy, buy, buy).

White’s characterization of our lives and online activities made me reflect on my love/hate relationship with the internet, go down memory lane, think about where our digital lives are going, and wonder how I will educate my child to appreciate life offline as she currently does. Besides the obvious: how to bring about work/life balance if work (in this case education) is now in the residential state.

As someone who had her first personal computer in my early teens – quite uncommon in the mid-nineties-, constantly quarreled with her father for blocking the phone line after 10 pm with the dial-up modem (me: who will be calling at this time? / dad: why do you need to be online at this time?) and used the good ol’ encyclopedia (book and later on the fancy CD-ROM versions) to do her assignments, it is easy to assume that my quasi-native interactions with computers are something that have been evolving almost in parallel with the technology.

ICQ, Messenger, AOL chat, MySpace… been there, done that. At some point, they started to lose their allure; just imagine that a couple of my ICQ friends and I started with a pen-pal system, sending actual letters and postal cards to each other. The last bastion of resistance? I can only shrug at this thought. I’ve spent so much time online during my high school years that by the time I reached university, the request to send documents attached to emails rather than printing or carrying a USB drive everywhere were just part of every day.

At some point, my parents expressed their concern about the amount of time I was spending in front of a computer, while good part of it was doing uni assignments, most of the time was for other things, and I remember my mom asking things like: “why if instead of drinking a cup of coffee in front of your screen when chatting with a friend, you go out to an actual cafe with your friend and chat there?”  She was right.

I started traveling, and internet access wasn’t ubiquitous as it is today, so the detox that came with the experience of not being in front of a computer 80% of the time taught me an invaluable lesson: balance your time on/off online.

When in mid-2006, I received an invitation to join Facebook, I ignored it. It wasn’t until 2008, when most of my friends (those who asked me to write a blog instead of sending long emails) started doing everything via Facebook, that I joined. At first, I really liked it as it was a nice way to stay in touch with many people with whom otherwise contact would be lost; then I started to get annoyed by ads – somehow I felt they were spying on me – and decided to learn more about what was behind Facebook. After visiting the little house of horrors, I chose to remain there while no longer opening quizzes and other data-sucking features.

The line defining work/life balance is something that the introduction of personal computers and the internet blurred and have been smudging ever since, becoming almost non-existent with smartphones and smaller devices that allow us to be online 24/7. And while some of us were trying to keep it separated, the pandemic accelerated the transition to the bottom-right quadrant.

Personally, 95% of my time online happens in this quadrant. How did this happen? The pandemic played a significant role. With a new job, an essential-worker husband, and a toddler at home, during lockdowns, I had to make the best out of my time online, which meant no spending time on social media or anything else that wasn’t related to my work. It worked as a charm. I’ve checked Facebook a total of 9 times since March 2020 – do I miss it? no. I posted that I was going into FB hiatus, so if anyone wanted to reach me, they could do it via email. It worked.

Again, this was all personal choice – if I’m going to spend time online as a resident-professional, I will not spend extra time for personal stuff. I see this as a trade-off with the great outcome of my having a sort of work-life balance translated as online-offline balance.

As online educators, it is part of our responsibility to invite students to do something offline, to get out of the internet altogether, and to learn how to balance their personal/professional- online/offline lives. Internet simplifies a lot of things while at the same time increasing the complexity of others. Awareness of the tradeoffs and risks associated with moving to the bottom-right quadrant is important for making the best out of this transition.

do we really want to move to the bottom-right quadrant?…