Yesterday morning, my internet went out for a few hours. This isn’t the first time it’s happened. I live in a very rural area and when my internet goes out, it’s out. I can’t just use my phone data or walk to a restaurant or library with free wi-fi. I’m left in utter silence, cut off from the virtual world I’ve become so dependent on.
In these instances, it is really apparent how much I rely on the internet for everything. There isn’t a moment of my existence now that isn’t supplemented in some way by this technology. I am absolutely panic stricken when I see that little wi-fi symbol go dark. I am disturbed by how much it disturbs me. I feel an overwhelming wave of desperation as I try to think of some way to get back online. My mind races with thoughts of how I’ll make it through the next hour, the next day, god forbid the next week. Whenever this happens it is a huge wake-up call. I am unable to avoid the terrible truth that I have become horrified of being truly alone with myself.
Yesterday, I managed to avoid my usual meltdown and just get really curious about my fear. What was I so afraid of? Was I really incapable of getting through a day without lo-fi hip hop playing in the background and YouTube videos to watch while I go about my daily tasks? I tried to remember what my life was like before I even had access to a computer. I’m so grateful I at least had that experience for a good portion of my life. Otherwise I might not have believed it was possible to go without.
Even though my connection came back after only around four hours, I really feel that forced time apart from the world wide web was a blessing. I always say I’m going to try to take a break from screens and the internet for a day, but quickly come to find it nearly impossible to do. The only way I ever seem to manage it is when I have no other option. Being forced to face the eerie discomfort is truly a gift. It may sound silly, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it. I was submerged in the silence I’ve grown to fear, and I made it out unscathed. In fact I was even calmer and more grateful the rest of the day because of that quiet time of uncomfortable reflection.
How do you feel when you don’t have access to the internet? Does that even happen to people much at all anymore? How do you think this dependence on something so easily lost is going to affect humanity, especially the younger generations that have never known a time without it? I’d love to know if this is just a personal problem or something all of us have come to rely on to an unhealthy extent.
The other day I heard someone make a comment sarcastically thanking their parents for letting them be born in “the worst possible time in human history.” I didn’t challenge this statement, mostly because I couldn’t tell if they were serious or just being overly dramatic or hyperbolic. I certainly hope they don’t genuinely believe that. It really made me stop and contemplate just how lucky I actually am to have been born in this time period.
Most of the time I spend complaining about the ways in which I feel society is broken and as a result destroying the natural world around us. I lament the fact that I won’t get to live a long happy peaceful life like it feels my generation was promised by our parents and teachers. When I was a child, the future seemed like a fantastical sci-fi movie. Who even knows what types of unbelievable technologies we’ll have in a few decades? Will cars fly? Will we be able to teleport? These things seemed like legitimate possibilities at one point.
However, growth of any kind cannot continue indefinitely. Now it seems more like humans are on their way out rather than up. I often find myself worrying about what will happen in the next ten, twenty, thirty years. What will the world even look like? Will I be able to manage? Will I suffer? Will my loved ones suffer? While I still believe these are valid concerns, when I consider them from the wider perspective of all of human history, they seem nearly laughable.
What does it matter if someday things will be hard, if someday I may struggle and suffer? Throughout most of human history we were all struggling and suffering in one way or another for our entire lives. I have already been lucky enough to have enjoyed twenty-sevenyears of beautiful, easy, happy life. Just a quick google search of the average age people died throughout history shows that I’ve already been extremely fortunate. For the majority of history most people died in their thirties. Why should I feel so “cheated” that I won’t get to be 90? How arrogant. How small minded. I am more than grateful for what I’ve been given. Each morning I wake up is a true miracle, the best gift I could ask for.
In the modern era even the most unfortunate among us have more than our brothers and sisters throughout history had. While our society is still quite far from perfect, it has come so far! I feel ashamed for only focusing on how much farther we have to go while never giving thanks for how far we’ve come. Most of my important opinions and the qualities that make me who I am would have been unheard of, a death sentence even, 50 years ago. I am allowed to be whoever I want to be. I have rights and independence. I am an unmarried, 27 year old woman with no children, my own house, and a full-time job. Simply incredible!
For all the complaining I do about technology and the internet, I am still quite humbled by it. The advancements and inventions that our ancestors have handed down to us are the reason we are here today. They are the reason our species even survived as long as we have. With this laptop, even my phone, I am able to learn about anything I want! I can talk to people across the world, listen to an endless catalog of music, play games, make art. What a simply spectacular world that I get to be a part of!
I suppose for most of my life, I thought acknowledging how fortunate I am and how amazing the world is, would make me complacent towards the suffering and injustices that still exist. It’s certainly still important to work for social change and to make the world an even better place while we’re still here. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be grateful for where we are today. From now on I’m going to try harder to remember that, to fully enjoy and appreciate each moment I am given. What a time to be alive! What a blessing! I am so grateful.
As a child, I remember being bored A LOT. I would follow my mom around whining, “I’m booorredd” as I’m sure many of us did. Aside from TV, which was mostly full of adult shows or reruns of cartoons I had already seen so many times I could recite the dialogue along with the characters, there wasn’t really much you could do to mindlessly pass the time. I can’t imagine what it’s like for children growing up now. There must never be even a moments rest from constant stimulation, thousands of different types of content and entertainment all desperately trying to win your attention. They probably struggle to focus on important things, let along worry about being bored.
Running around like always the other day, I paused for a moment and wondered, “when was the last time I was truly bored?” I honestly can’t remember. Since I was a teenager, it seemed like I always had something to occupy my time. I suppose at a certain point, the little boredom that could survive the rapid advancements of technology was drown in drugs and alcohol. Now as an adult, I simply don’t feel like I have time to be bored. It feels like there is always something that needs to be done. There is never a lack of tedious chores to be tended to.
In the past, boredom was something that was unavoidable. We had to find creative ways to entertain ourselves when these moments arose. It was also valuable time for our minds to rest and wander. In modern times, we don’t leave any time for “doing nothing.” Yet we know the mind is always doing something, so this time was actually worthwhile. Instead of exerting mountains of effort, focusing on completing tasks or solving problems, boredom is a chance for the mind to play. Letting the mind roam can lead to some incredible ideas! It is also a great chance for us to do some much needed self-reflection.
I used to think my memory was poor from all the marijuana I smoked as a teen/young adult. Now I wonder if it might also have something to do with how rarely I allow myself time to contemplate my day. It seems like a lot of this idle time I had as a child was spent thinking about things that had just happened, what I liked, what I didn’t like, what I hoped for, what I could do better, what I learned, what surprised me, confused me, etc. While this may have seemed like daydreaming at the time, looking back, I think it was more than that. Besides, I think wild daydreams have their own value.
Not only could the daydreams we have cultivate positive energy and emotions, they are also a wonderful way to practice our creativity. The art of imagination is being lost, I fear. It’s hard to allow ourselves to lean on our own mental creations when there are sooo many ideas already swirling around at our fingertips for us to reference. It’s much more work to take the time to come up with our own ideas. The temptation to find “inspiration” online before a creative endeavor is nearly irresistible.
There are so many books about visualization and how we can use it to benefit our lives. It seems to me like we were all practicing visualization when we would allow our minds to wander out of boredom. These moments of relaxed unguided thought were excellent ways to invite spontaneous inspiration and new ideas. It was a time for us to recenter and consider who we are, where we’re going, what we’re doing, and what our goals/dreams might be. Without these quiet moments with ourselves, many of us just continue barreling through life with not much of an intention or direction. Boredom was a chance to reevaluate and course correct.
At one time our challenge was trying to avoid boredom, it seems now it’s become the problem of how to allow ourselves to be bored. Definitely not as easy as it sounds. Although boredom is beneficial, it can also often be quite uncomfortable. Not only that, with so many different types of stimulation surrounding us at every moment, it can take a herculean effort to resist them all. More and more people seems to be setting aside time for themselves to meditate, but maybe it’s time we also try to set aside some moments in our day to be bored.
I often wonder who I would be without technology. Would I have less anxiety? Would I be closer to the people in my life? Would I be more present? Would it be easier to focus? Sometimes I can look back at my childhood for a clue to the answer to those questions. Although it’s hard to compare because childhood is so different from adulthood in general. I can’t tell precisely what role technology may have had in those differences. One thing that seems clearer to me than others is the effect technology has on creativity.
Before the advent of computers, television was the biggest hurdle to my creativity. I get that blaming technology or television is ultimately a copout. Nothing is making me use these things as much as I do. However, I would argue that boredom itself leads to creativity. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I was actually bored. I’m certainly anxious, but not bored. I remember when I was younger, trailing behind my mother as she went about the house doing chores whining about how bored I was. It was that very boredom that became the catalyst for so much creativity. You’ve simply got to get creative if you want to find ways to entertain yourself. I was required to look within myself for stimulation rather than depend on the world around me.
I still have fond memories of the ridiculous games my sister and I would come up with like smacking a ball back and forth at each other down a long hallway in our house. Once we made our own Pokemon figures out of clay because my mother couldn’t afford to buy all the ones we wanted. When I was really little I even tried to make unique toys for myself out of construction paper and cotton balls. We were very creative and innovative children. Who knows if any of those moments would have even come to pass if we had our own tablets or smartphones like the children of today.
Now I can hardly come up with an idea for my daily drawings on my own. I can’t help but search for “inspiration” on Pinterest first. Lately I’ve even been searching through endless prompts for what to write about rather than taking the time to search my own heart and mind for what I’d like to say. It’s much harder to convince yourself to take the time to look within when there is just SO MUCH available outside of yourself to consume. Not to mention its much easier to scroll through Pinterest than it is to sit staring at that daunting blank page. In addition to that, it almost feels like my own ideas couldn’t possibly even compare to the creative content that already exists at my fingertips.
We’ve all come to realize the damage that constant comparison can cause to our self-image and self-esteem. I think it also has a huge negative effect on our creativity. Who knows what my mind would be able to creative if it wasn’t always preoccupied with what already exists. With the way we are all so dependent on technology, it feels nearly impossible to expect anyone to spend time cultivating their own creativity. Because that’s just it, creativity is something we have to practice. The problem with practice is that we must accept we aren’t likely to be very good in the beginning. It’s hard to settle for your own (initially mediocre) ideas when you know there are better ones behind a screen, a simple click away.
I don’t know what the answer to this problem is, or if there is even a practical way to address it at all. The silence we all had to face in the past was the blank canvas that allowed us to find our own inner greatness. That silence is still there, waiting patiently for each of us. Yet in the past we were forced to sit with this silence, now we must choose to. I fear that as time goes on less and less people will realize the value in doing so. Years of constant external stimulation will also make it harder and harder to make that choice even if we want to. Soon our own inner worlds may be lost to us completely.
The last few days I’ve been watching a lot of videos about what life was like in the Victorian Era. While the things I’m learning are extremely interesting, they are also quite horrifying. I discovered just how unsafe it was to be alive during that time period, let alone all of the rest of human history. People would meet their death doing things as simple as taking a bath, eating food from the market, having a bathroom installed in their home, having colorful wallpaper, etc. It seems as though there were unlimited dangers all around that weren’t yet fully understood or identified.
It’s very interesting to me how I am able to simultaneously marvel at human achievements throughout history and also be dumbstruck at our sheer recklessness and stupidity. On both fronts it seems incredible that we have managed to make it this far. It really puts a lot of things into perspective for me. Generally I have expected a lot out of the human race. Perhaps that’s because when we’re young we are surrounded with the idea that humans are the pinnacle of evolution, fabulous, unique, God-like beings. At least that’s the impression I seemed to get about what most humans thought of our species. Yet in every waking moment, I seemed to be confronted with human limitation and outrageous foolishness. It would be a constant source of frustration. People never seemed to live up to the standards I had set for them. Not even I was able to meet those standards.
History used to be one of my favorite subjects. But as we learned more and more it seemed like the only things that mattered in recorded history were wars and politics. These things are certainly interesting, but there is so much more to history that I would have rather explored. Learning about society and the way other generations lived awakens a fierce gratitude within me for the luxuries of the time period that we live in. So many simple conveniences that we take for granted were not so long ago unimaginable. I’ve been reflecting on the amazing benefits we now have such as electricity, running water, plumbing, cars, medicine, technology, the internet, the list could go on and on. Most of us tend to use these conveniences everyday without thinking twice about them.
As you know I spend a lot of time worrying about the end of the world. The end seems more and more inevitable each and every day. However, learning about the history of humanity, makes me less concerned about it for some reason. I’m left just feeling grateful that we made it this far. It seems like each moment is an incredible gift. It seems selfish and ungrateful to complain that I won’t get more. In my twenty seven years of life I have already had more pleasure than entire populations had in a lifetime. I’ve allowed myself to feel so cheated that I may not get to live out my life and die of old age as it feels I was promised as a young child. However, when I think about it, I was never even guaranteed the time I’ve already had. Had I lived in any other time period, or even in a different part of the world today, I might have already succumbed to some horrendous illness or accident. This shift in perspective has been extremely therapeutic for me. It has made me feel lighter and reflect on my good fortune.
From now on I plan to work on being grateful for each moment I am given. However much life I have left on this earth will be more than enough. How absurd it now seems to complain when I have so much. Gratitude is truly the cure for so many psychological woes. Perhaps there is no better or more powerful feeling. Even love itself is a form of gratitude. And I really do love this life. I love the many beings I have been lucky enough to share it with. Each day is filled with so many unbelievable blessings. Nice clothing and bed linens, a safe, warm home, a cup of coffee, a hot shower, fresh fruits and vegetables, clean water. How insane the people of the past would think us for finding anything to complain about or to be dissatisfied with. What a beautiful life.
The night before last, my internet connection suddenly stopped working at my house. Unfortunately my service is through Comcast, so it still hasn’t been fixed despite my attempts over the phone to receive assistance. At first, I felt utterly lost and helpless without YouTube and Netflix. While I do have data on my phone, I live in the middle of the woods so, as you might imagine, I don’t have great signal.
While this all is very inconvenient and frustrating, it has also been a blessing of sorts. Being forced off of the internet for over a day has been therapeutic. Initially, my stress level went through the roof, but after a while, I adapted. I dug out my old laptop with all of my saved music and video files to supplement my normal background noise. (Some habits are hard to let go of.) However, despite using my computer for ambient noise, without the internet offering up unlimited possibilities, I didn’t feel as tethered to my screens as I normally do.
In fact, it actually allowed me to spend a lot more time outside, where I want to be spending my time. Normally there is an internal struggle as I try to decide whether or not I want to pause my internet browsing to go do my yoga and meditation practice outside, or go for a run, or do yardwork. Even though I know how much I always end up enjoying myself when I am in the fresh air and sunshine, there is still a lot of anxiety around the act of putting down my technology to do so. Yesterday that struggles was gone. Why shouldn’t I go outside? Finally, there was nothing holding me back from the reawakening world outside my door.
It felt so good to feel the warm sun on my skin and smell the wind. I pulled up all the weeds from my flowerbeds, which I was surprised to find brought me great enjoyment. It was so delightful to feel the cool, damp earth and the soft, green leaves between my fingers. It’s easy to forget just how immersive the outside world can be. There is so much to explore and examine even in the relatively bland nature surrounding a house. No matter how much time you spend in the garden or the woods, there is always something new to discover. Yesterday I was overjoyed to come across a strange long blade of what appeared to be grass with a small plump green bulb dangling off its tip, as if barely connected at all. I have no idea what it is, but I’ll definitely be checking back in on that plant to try to find out.
For days now I have been anxiously dreading the chores I had to do in my yard, but somehow without the internet to beckon to me from inside, I had one of the best days I’ve had in awhile doing so. I was even enjoying myself so much that I ended up doing more than I planned on. I got out my weed whacker. I started some seeds for my garden. I set up some simple décor on my back porch. I cleaned off my trampoline and swept the sidewalk. I even strolled through my yard and collected patches of moss to put in my potted plants. Something I have been wanting to do for awhile in the hopes it will help the soil stay moist and suitable for my succulents.
All of this time spent outside, especially gathering the moss, left me feeling so happy. It reminded me of being a child again. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I used to imagine one day I’d be a flower arranger or design landscapes for gardens. In preparation for this, I would gather moss, wildflowers, pretty stones, and any other attractive, interesting things I could find around my yard and create small little arrangements with them. I like to think they were the original fairy gardens that have become so popular now. Finding myself outside gathering moss again allowed me to reconnect with that childlike wonder and joy that has remained dormant in me for so long.
Thanks to my yoga and meditation practice, what once would have been an absolute nightmare of an experience, leading me to a total meltdown with lots of hysterical crying and complaining, actually turned out to be something to be grateful for. It has even been empowering in a way. It feels good to know that I don’t have to rely on the internet for enjoyment and entertainment. I have more than enough within me to make my own contentment. It also reminded me of the peace that this lack of technology allowed. Things seemed quieter before the internet. My mind seemed less busy, less distracted. And with that focus, with that stillness, came a simple serenity that now seems lost to us.
While the internet and our other advancements in technology have made the world a better place in a lot of important ways, it has also robbed us of a lot of what we once had in life. Somehow by providing unlimited possibilities we have surrendered our freedom. I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if it had stayed the way it was when I was a child. I have to imagine that my, if not everyone’s, mental health would be much better off. Perhaps humanity would have been able to remain at least a little closer to nature and one another than we are now.
I’d like to say that this experience will cause me to take regular breaks from my devices in order to remember this newfound freedom, but I don’t know that willpower alone will be enough to break those chains that tether me to technology. As for now, all I can say is I am in no hurry to fix my faulty internet connection. I am more than happy to spend a few more days disconnected.
Everything that we consume becomes integrated, it all becomes a part of us. Whether its the food we eat, the things we drink, the substances we use, the physical atmosphere of the space around us, or even just the things we watch and listen to, all of these things effect us. Often in ways we don’t intend for them to. I’ve been contemplating this idea a lot lately. I’ve always been hyper aware of the things I put into my body. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean I make the right choices in that area often enough. My primary concern was always with the effects these things have on my weight and physical appearance. The subtler aspects of how what I consume effects my mental and emotional wellbeing always seem to remain largely overlooked.
Without looking at the scientific data showing correlation, it can be very difficult to even connect the way we feel with what we are consuming day to day. It is probably effecting us more than we realize, especially when it comes to anxiety disorders. In addition to cutting back on processed foods, artificial sweeteners, sugar, caffeine, and nicotine, I also want to start changing the content that I consume online. It would be interesting to make these changes just to see if I notice a difference. To log my mood and anxiety level throughout this process to try to gauge just how different I might feel without all of these harmful influences being so enmeshed in my life.
Knowing what I do now about the way our internet experience is basically tailor made for us by algorithms, I would like to try my hand at making that algorithm serve me instead of steer me. I’ve always been someone who enjoys the grittier side of movies and series. So the videos that are offered to me for easy access are primarily about murder mysteries, drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness, social injustice, civil unrest, etc. And while these topics are very interesting, they can also be very upsetting and depressing. When this is the only content that is readily available to you, it can start to feel like all that there is. I wonder how much of what I think and feel every day is directly impacted by this endless background noise of destruction, violence, and despair. Would I be a different person, would I think differently if I actively sought out different content?
One of the reasons the idea of the algorithm guiding our hand has been on my mind so much lately, is because of what’s currently happening on my Netflix account. Somehow I fell down a rabbit whole of watching English dubbed, foreign TV series. Don’t get me wrong, quite well-produced and intriguing stuff, but after awhile I get tired of the voiceover and the dialogue not lining up with the actors’ lip movements. Much to my dismay I seem unable to extricate myself from this issue. Netflix continues to suggest only these shows, and due to my general laziness I put up with watching another one rather than put any effort into finding a good American made show instead. Thus furthering Netflix’s propensity toward offering me foreign series and films. The algorithms that were created to assist us, eventually start to direct and limit our ability to make our own decisions. Only with great, intentional effort can we overcome this endless loop.
Another reason I am interested in the idea of changing the content I consume is to discover just how difficult it would actually be to do. How quickly would the algorithm adjust to a drastic change in interest? The only reason I haven’t done this sooner is because I enjoy the content I consume as I’m sure we all do. I don’t feel confident that I will be able to find more positive content that will interest me as much. I worry that I won’t be satisfied if I limit myself to only watching lighthearted, fluffy shows. I suppose if that ends up being the case, I can always transition away from it again. Perhaps I’d even be able to establish a nice balance between these opposing genres.
I’m going to do some investigating and see if there are any useful resources already out there online for ways to go about shifting your internet experience so that you are exposed to more uplifting content. It seems that someone must have already had the idea to consciously manipulate the algorithm for the benefit of their mental health already. It will be interesting to expose myself to a whole new side of the internet that has remained hidden from me until now. Who knows what I may uncover? I’ll be sure to make an update to this post once I implement this new plan and discover how this seemingly innocuous change effects me.
It is interesting to me that when I sit down to write, the ideas that usually come to mind are so negative. I think about problems I see in my own life or in the world around me. I can think of some pretty interesting topics, but that isn’t the issue. I didn’t start writing everyday to be interesting. I am doing this because I like to write and it makes me happy. Depending on what I’m writing about. It always comes down to focus.
I genuinely fear for these younger generations. Even my own has suffered and continues to suffer from the influence of technology. The internet and social media have drastically damaged our mental abilities. The saddest thing is that there isn’t really anyone to blame or a clear solution other than purging our lives of these technologies entirely. We have reached the point in history where “robots are taking over.” It just doesn’t look like what we thought it would look like. It is much subtler. Robot humans aren’t so much moving into our neighborhoods and taking out jobs, as they are tinkering behind the scenes shaping our own personalized virtual worlds for us. There is no evil intention behind this threat to humanity. The algorithms we’ve created are only doing their best, trying to help us as they’ve been designed to do. We just couldn’t have imagined the implications of this progress.
Among the myriad reasons that this new reality we’ve unleashed upon the world is harmful, the most significant to me is its effect on attention span. This has definitely made an impact on all of us who use the internet and specifically social media, but it is particularly easy to see in children. It really breaks my heart to imagine what childhood must look like now-a-days compared to what I was lucky enough to have. Just the other day a coworker and I were reminiscing in front of a 10 or 11 year old girl about before we had internet or even a computer. She seemed stunned and horrified as she listened. I felt like my grandmother when she would tell me about before they had cars and electricity.
It is interesting to me that alongside this rise in social media, there has also been an increase in interest in spiritual practices such as yoga. It is almost as if we are naturally seeking out a balance to the damaging effects we’ve been exposed to. Something inside of us is looking for help. While it can’t solve the problems we face, I do feel that yoga and meditation are instrumental in combating the negative effects of technology in my own life. No matter how long I practice yoga, it continues to blossom and evolve. As I peel back layer after layer, I find new pearls of truth, new perspectives. I’ll think I know what yoga is all about, then have that idea utterly overthrown by a new one.
Once I thought yoga was just about exercise and flexibility. I thought meditation was an effort to keep the mind still. Now I’ve learned that both of these practices are complementary to one another and that ultimately they are both about focus. It doesn’t matter if you can do the splits and hold a handstand if your mind is somewhere else the whole time. You can sit in meditation for hours, but if your mind is running laps it won’t do you much good. The point of both of these practices is to train and harness our ability to focus.
We often hear that we are in control of our own happiness. We can choose the way we want to feel and respond to the world around us. And while this is true, it doesn’t exactly explain how we are able to do this. The answer to that is (yep, you guessed it) focus. Concentration, attention, focus, whatever you want to call it, it is a muscle that we must exercise and train to serve us. Sadly, the internet and social media are actively working against this training, teaching our minds to do just the opposite of focus.
That is why having a regular yoga and meditation practice is more important than ever before. Yoga and meditation are sneaky. They give us things to focus on, and we assign different meaning to why we are focusing on them. We want to be healthy, we want to be flexible, we want to have more peace and calm in our lives. It is only later that many of us realize what we are focusing on has little to do with it. The mere act of mindful awareness and concentration are what produce the positive mental health effects. That’s why eventually we can learn to take our practice with us off the mat. We don’t have to be in impressive postures to be practicing yoga. Don’t forget tadasana (mountain pose) is just as valuable as bakasana (crow pose). Pranayama isn’t necessarily beneficial simply because of the techniques we are using for the breath, but because of the intense focus we put on the breath.
As you go about the rest of your day, try to notice how you feel when the mind is focused, when it’s scattered. It seems silly or even simply, but when you notice yourself becoming agitated or anxious, find something to focus on. It’s harder than it sounds. Watch your mind as it squirms and tries to escape this stillness, the mindful attention. What you decide to focus your attention on doesn’t really matter. The breath is always a good choice because it is always there with us. But you could also focus on a blade of grass, the veins in your hands, the backs of your eyelids, the way your clothes feel against your skin. As long as you’re concentrating, it will help. This is why the flow state is so intoxicating. It isn’t even necessarily because we are often engaged in an activity we love doing, it is because we are intensely focused. So I hope that you are able to practice focus as you move through your day today. Just take it one step at a time. Allow yourself be enjoy each moment as it comes, giving it your full attention.
It has been over a year now since I stopped using most of social media. I still have a Tumblr, but I don’t really know anyone on there or interact much. I just post my drawings for my handful of followers and scroll through pretty pictures mostly. I also somewhat consider my time of here “social media” because I do get that dopamine rush from seeing likes and comments on my posts. But I’ve completed cut myself off from Facebook and Instagram. I never had a Twitter or anything else.
It was a lot easier to stop using these sites than I thought it would be. I don’t have tons of friends or family that talk to me on there anyway. It was a wonderful relief to not have to think about what was going on in that virtual social landscape all the time. However, if I’m being honest, I miss having the opportunity for attention. Dying my hair really got me craving some virtual validation. It would have felt nice to post some pictures of my new hair online and get lots of likes. There is something so satisfying about that.
As a woman, I also miss always being able to get attention from guys online. There are certain days when I feel so lonely. It was nice to know I could always find someone new to talk to even if I ultimately decided not to. I do recall thought that most of those impulsive introductions led to nothing but frustration and disappointment. There was also a good bit of anxiety when I decided I wanted to disappear but felt guilty about ghosting.
I know that overall, my life is better without social media. It is unnecessary and mentally and emotionally unhealthy. It’s just a distraction that inflates my ego. I have to keep reminding myself why I left in the first place. I don’t want to go back to fishing for validation from strangers. Even my writing on here has become a little too much about what people will think of it. I want to write these posts every day for me, regardless of what anyone else thinks about what I have to say.
Social Media is a misdirection. It convinces us that the happiness we seek lies elsewhere, in the approval and attention of others. We become addicted to being constantly acknowledged. We become a pseudo celebrity in our own minds. We start to feel empty without the gaze of the masses constantly upon us. But we don’t need anyone else to see our lives for them to matter. We don’t need anyone else to have happiness.
When I am feeling this hollowness, this sense of emptiness within me, there is still that urge to look outside of myself for something to fill that space. But the answer isn’t to indulge that urge. The answer is to sit with this empty feeling, not to run from it. It is a part of me, a part of this experience we call life. And I am the only one who has the power to fill that void. I already have everything that I need.
The Social Dilemma is a new documentary on Netflix that everyone needs to see. It is a harrowing look at what social media and the internet in general are doing to us as individuals and society as a whole. I’ve long suspected that this new age of technology was having a deleterious effect on our brains, but never could I have imagined how serious it actually is.
We have been trapped under the wheels of a machine that we created and set into motion but now have no power to stop. The tropes about robots taking over and destroying humanity didn’t manifest in exactly the way we pictured it, but I would argue the age of AI overlords has already begun. We have become the victims of our own advancements. Our biology and slow rate of evolutionary change simply cannot keep up with and stay on top of the rapid growth of technology.
Our psychology is being used against us for the sole benefit of corporations and advertisers. This documentary points out that we are no longer the consumers. We are the products being sold. More specifically our attention is being sold. And it seems for the most part we are helpless to overcome the addictive nature of this new market. Not only that, while we feed into this system, society as a whole is becoming more and more anxious, depressed, and isolated from one another. This isn’t necessarily a purposeful outcome, yet it is an insignificant side effect for the people and algorithms running the show.
If you’d like some first hand evidence, try logging off of Facebook for a few weeks. I have been avoiding that site for over a year now. You wouldn’t believe the lengths the site has gone to try to reel me back in. I found it funny at first, seeing notifications for less and less relevant things when I did open the app. How desperate Facebook is to somehow regain my attention! But now I think it’s actually quite scary.
I will say I have felt much better mentally since I stopping using Facebook. I don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone for one thing. I am not weighed down by constant updates and online drama. I don’t waste time thinking up a status update or obsessively checking to see how many people liked it. It is freeing. I feel lighter now.
However, despite my success at overcoming the algorithm in that regard, I am still not completely free of the strong psychological drive to seek dopamine “rewards” online. For instance, I now post on here everyday. I do greatly look forward to seeing how many people like what I’ve written. Although I limit myself to checking my notifications once a day. I also still scroll my feed and post drawings on Tumblr. Not to mention I am perpetually watching either YouTube or Netflix all day long.
While I am able to remember, and think back fondly, on a time before the internet and social media, newer generations will not have this luxury. This new form of society is all they have ever known. Soon humanity will not even be able to conceive of a world without these detrimental influences.
I desperately long for the simplicity of my childhood spent away from screens, enjoying the real world. But even more than that, I pity the children of today. They have become victims without even realizing it. And what choice do they truly have? While disconnecting from our devices is liberating and beneficial in many ways, it is also extremely isolating in others. It is choosing to be apart from the rest of society in a major way. Even though it is better for your own mental health, it is also lonely, a virtual exile.
Ultimately I don’t know what the solution could be to this problem we’ve unwittingly created. Humans are forever hopeful. The executives that once had a hand in creating this new world seem to believe we can overcome it somehow. But I don’t know if I agree. I see it as just another sign of our rapidly advancing inevitable demise as a society and as a species. Although I sincerely hope I am wrong.