Being insatiably curious has its drawbacks. Toss in a wayward attention span and a reliance on technology — that trifecta of conditions which are my wont — and sometimes, trying to get things …
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Being insatiably curious has its drawbacks. Toss in a wayward attention span and a reliance on technology — that trifecta of conditions which are my wont — and sometimes, trying to get things done can seem like one long snipe hunt.
I’m not sure which came first, my innate curiosity about so many things or my love of reading. One has certainly always fed the other. In college it led me to subscribing to and reading seven daily newspapers each morning and, many nights, absentmindedly wandering the stacks of my university’s massive library (instead of studying) — overwhelmed by the sheer volume of volumes on the most obscure of topics.
These days, wonder and wander (as well as an occasional weakness for clickbait) manifest in similar ways, only on my laptop. Like you may do, I can get lost roaming the digital “stacks” from a comfy recliner.
On my computer, I typically have 20 or more tabs open to stories and articles I want to read. The subjects can vary widely. A sample inventory would indicate that I’m a late-stage Baby Boomer who’s curious about (narrowing it down to just a few heavily-traveled roads) sports, ’80s music and movies, European travel, history, questions about life on other planets, watercolor painting, wine, sociology — and, quite naturally, the two most common dinner-table topics in our house, religion and politics.
And the bedevilment of reading something online, of course, is the scourge of the hyperlink — footnotes, asides, backstories and related articles that, with the click of a mouse, are delivered up immediately, complementing your knowledge base in an instant.
That turns two dozen open tabs to three-score in a hurry.
Which is why my digital rabbit trail from a single Google fact-check query might take me to far-flung questions like these in a matter of minutes:
Why did the band Lynyrd Skynyrd have two drummers?
What does Marcia from the Brady Bunch look like now?
What is the optimum temperature for pan-grilled salmon?
What are the five best British crime dramas streaming on Netflix?
What is actor James Caan’s net worth?
How will ocean cruising be different post-pandemic?
And whatever happened to Ed Marinaro, the former Minnesota Vikings running back who later starred in the TV crime drama Hill Street Blues?
It never seems to end.
The worst part of an intense curiosity is when enjoyment of a thing is interrupted. I’m quick to pull out my phone, for example, while watching a movie with my wife to Google that actor I know I’ve seen somewhere before. Or to check the historical accuracy of a storyline, or to pull up that theme song on Spotify and add it to a playlist.
It drives her crazy, but I can’t seem to help it.
Intense curiosity also leads me to a strange kind of fear of missing out — #FOMO, in modern parlance. But it also delivers me too often to the road of #TL;DR, also known as “too long; didn’t read.” As in: I’m very interested in it, but once I’m “there,” I’m not totally sure I’m committed enough to investing the time to deconstruct the details.
Drinking from a firehose of information doesn’t satiate curiosity; it drenches and drowns you instead.
Living in the “executive summary” of life, though, is also unfulfilling. It might make you good at games of trivia and keen at Scrabble, but it keeps you from exploring the depths of a thing.
Thankfully, we can make use of tools like browser bookmarks and web clipping apps and “READ LATER” electronic files. “LONG READS” is another I’ve filled. Believe me, they work much better than a large cardboard box, which used to serve as my “read later” repository.
And my laptop’s “delete” key and browsers’ “close out” functions?
“Everything in moderation, including moderation,” said Oscar Wilde.
Or, as I remind myself: #EIMIM.