Class Notes

Bring on the Masseuse!

The aches and pains of our Internet age

By Paula Marantz Cohen | October 22, 2013


I spend a good portion of my nonteaching days in front of the computer: writing, editing, and answering email–so much time that when I read a book offline (increasingly, my reading is on my iPad or even on the computer), it feels like exercise. As a result, I have a continual ache in my upper back and pain that tingles down my arms. At times, it feels like I have terrible bruises on my scapula. It’s gotten so bad that I recently joined a “club” that offers monthly massage therapy at a “reasonable” rate—really, not so reasonable, but what the market can bear. Apparently, I am not alone in my suffering. When I went for my first session, my masseuse (could I have ever imagined I would use the term, no less with the possessive attached?) told me that she sees half a dozen people a day with upper back pain like mine, the result of too many hours spent at the computer. She seemed to know exactly where the problem was and alleviated it, at least for a few hours.

I was thinking about my back pain recently in considering the increase in e-learning courses at my university. Although I sometimes have students post responses to material, I have not yet taught an online or even a hybrid (part online, part face-to-face) course. I love meeting my students in the flesh and feel that I could never generate the kind of excitement online that I do during a good classroom discussion. But another reason for face-to-face teaching is health-related. A good online course would require many more hours than I currently spend at the computer. My body couldn’t bear it—at least not without more frequent visits to my masseuse. But by then, maybe universities will include massage club memberships in their benefit packages.

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