I think I officially have a problem guys.
For my regular readers, you may remember how my attachment to my technology almost made me skip a run. This problem is spreading to other areas of my life.
So Tuesday night, it’s nearly midnight, I have managed to force myself to put down my phone after getting into bed, and read a few pages of Pride and Prejudice before turning out the lights and snuggling into my sheets. I closed my eyes and prepared to drift peacefully off to sleep, content in my belief that I had finally broken the habit of compulsively checking all mail and social media before bed.
See I was doing so well, and then an idea for a post struck. My hands got twitchy and after about a minute of trying to convince myself to just write it down in the morning, that yes I WOULD remember when I woke up, I caved. So yes, I wrote this from my bed when I should have been halfway to REM sleep.
I also get anxious when I don’t have my cell phone within a 30-second radius of my person. A few weeks ago, I got to the bus stop and realized I had forgotten my cellphone at home. This struck enough terror in my heart that I almost decided to miss the bus and be late for class to go back for it. Since the bus was pulling around the corner I went with the be on time option, determined to make do with playing Minesweeper on my iPod. Two minutes in to my 50 minute bus ride the unthinkable happened – I reached in my pocket and pulled out my dead iPod. To make matters worse I didn’t even have my tablet. Yes folks I was stuck on a bus for 48 minutes completely unplugged. Left alone to notice the world around me without any technological filters.
What’s funny is that despite the fact that I use social media, as I think most people do, to feel less alone and more connected, sometimes all the social media just makes me feel more alone. Because that’s what happens when you see the most exciting moments and witty thoughts of those around you highlighted in one compact source. It’s a thing. Researchers are calling it the Fear of Missing Out (there’s a book here on the topic). Basically, we all think we’re sucking at life because we judge the snapshots posted to social media as indicative of people’s everyday lives. So you see people posting photos from the bar having fun while you’re home doing readings or something equally boring and you assume that they are out partying and having fun all the time. Like their work just does itself or you’re too inefficient to have time for such frivolity. Except that’s not the case. Like ever. Even if it is, doesn’t mean your life sucks.
But at this point at least three problems have become evident:
Problem One: I have lost all ability to just sit and only sit.
Problem Two: I am more attached to my phone than I am to some of my friends. This is what we call in psychology a pathological attachment.
Problem Three: Social media, you know that thing that’s supposed to bring us together has created an artificial closeness that looks a lot like separation.
I realized laying in bed, that I don’t really live my life to live it, to enjoy, and simply be in every moment. I live my life so I can immortalize it on the internet. I thought about going to pet therapy on campus yesterday, managed to do the people thing and thought to invite a friend, and then thought about how to best ask for a photo there and what the perfect caption would be. Don’t judge. I honestly can’t be the only one that does this.
I’m all for sharing yourself with the world, connecting with a bigger world than the one you can connect to on a day-to-day basis. What I am saying though is that life shouldn’t be lived for the digital world, with the idea of proving to Internetland that our lives are exciting as the primary goal. It should complement rather than supplant your experience with the other, connect you to others in a real way, which sometimes means disconnecting a bit.
But what I find interesting, is the digital trail we leave behind, clues for people who didn’t even know us about who we were as a human being*. And it’s sort of a new thing for our generation, certainly even more for people born AFB (After Facebook, this WILL BE the way we divide time in the future, AD and BC are going out the window, mark my words!), but we are living and leaving our entire lives online. With new moms frequently posting baby pictures and statuses about their babies’ activities online, baby books are slowly being digitalized, every moment immortalized for all the world to see. But it’s interesting how this almost appears to be a step in evolution.
I was talking with a good friend of mine Tuesday night and he was telling me about how scientists are saying that it appears that homo sapiens are not evolving. That unlike all our hominid ancestors, we are not advancing or changing, which some may argue is because we have already reached perfection. I argue instead that while it is true that we are no longer developing new structures or changing the size and shape of our brain and body, we are evolving at a much more micro level which cannot yet be seen by the technology we have developed. I believe that rather than creating new structures, we are simply modifying the connections in our brain, and while we cannot necessarily scientifically measure these shifts yet, the cognitive and behavioural processes and the advancements of our technology are a manifest of these developments. Our culture and behaviours have shifted in major ways since the explosion of technology, particularly in terms of the internet and mobile devices such as the cell phone, tablet, and laptop. Thus, this invention of the online social network, this digital diary of sorts, can be conceived of as a modification of our cognitive processes, our psychic reality. To avoid the terror of our mortality, we have figured out this incredible system that now makes us Gods in a sense. We live forever. For many of us we live our lives so completely online, that people truly could get a perfect picture of our lives, but for most, it almost becomes debatable how we actually lived our lives when all that is available are the most exciting snapshots of our lives. And it’s sort of incredible. And really terrifying. Because 100 years from now when I’m worm food, what kind of person will I appear to have been to whoever happens to find my digital thumbprint? Will I leave an authentic image, or a sort of airbrushed version of my existence? Will they understand me when I can no longer explain myself?
This seems to come at a pretty heavy price when you realize that all this immortality means living half your life, because the other half must attend to your online memoriam that is always under construction. So we live half our life constructing what we will leave behind.
So was the whole point of this to make you swear off the internet (except for reading this blog, of course)? No, just that maybe we should be aware of how technology impacts our lives, and how sometimes we need to just disconnect from Internetland and live in the moment, not so we can post about it later. Really just a restless thought of a sleepless mind.
P.S. Tune in next week – there will be a follow-up to this post based on one of the most interesting things that has ever been said to me…. “And then death gets interesting…”