Sunday, September 6, 2009

Confessions of a Social Media Addict

Admittedly, my last several posts have been somewhat gloomy. In "The End of Solitude/The Dawn of Isolation" I talk about how the Internet is my only island of social connection; in "My Health is Not the Same" I talk about a subtle weariness, a lingering fatigue, which has recently come over me . . .

I think I know what the problem is, and it should come as no surprise: I'm spending too much time in front of the computer.

No guru can tell me what I know in my heart. I am watching myself throughout the day, sometimes more, sometimes less. But I see what's going on here . . . I'm no fool to my behaviors . . .

Let us turn to Michel de Montaigne, who writes:
In comparison with most men, few things touch me, or to put it better, hold me; for it is right that things should touch us, provided they do not possess us.
I have allowed the Internet to possess me.

My temperament is such that I grow hypnotized by the object of my attention. While I have never played video games compulsively, I can see how the Internet has a similar effect on a person.

On a given day, I will bounce from one social media network to another, I'll update my Twitter accounts, read emails, chat on Twitter, read daily feeds, retweet interesting links, and surf more webpages . . . . this becomes my video game.

Montaigne:
Consider that even in actions which are vain and frivolous, in chess, tennis, and the like, this fierce and ardent involvement of an impetuous desire instantly casts the mind and limbs into thoughtlessness and disorder: we daze and hamper ourselves.
Sucked into the social web, I can't remove myself for the next three to four hours. My body aches, my mind grows tired, my eyes hurt. I forget to eat . . .

I also put off my real work. Which requires me to then come back to the computer later. But the first thing I do when I come back to the computer is go on Twitter; and the vicious cycle begins again. I'm on the computer all day and all night.

I must learn to touch the Internet and its lavish, electrifying superabundance while not becoming possessed by it. This is my goal.
To know the order of precedence is the beginning of wisdom. (Confucius)
There is an economy of the self. Each of us must learn that economy, or we may find ourselves in a deficit of time and attention.

Attention is becoming a scare commodity in today's world. Every major company, media source, bank and institution wants your attention and is willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it.

The Internet is a dangerous black hole of attention. You can get lost and never return to your normal self. I gave up reading classical literature for two years.

What I'm learning to do is discriminate between online and offline activities, devoting a certain amount of time to both. My favorite offline activities include reading books and drawing. I started the EIL Moleskine Project without ever imagining that it would become an antidote to my social media addiction.

All is not lost. I can reclaim the part of myself that is not connected to the online world. I just need to realize how easily I fall down the social media rabbit hole, and how quickly the Internet possesses me. Without a conscious economy of the self, I am destined to compromise my life as an artist and an intellectual.

ARTWORK BY RYUKO AZUMA

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7 comments:

Matty D said...

This post can apply to a lot of people a little, or a lot. I sometimes wonder how similar the internet and social media activities are to video games.

The reason I stopped playing video games back in the day is that I would rack up all these "accomplishments" and realize: Oh, nobody in the real world cares about these. After I had that realization--that my video game accomplishments didn't transfer to the real world--I stopped playing.

Incidentally that might serve as a litmus test to see what online activities are worthy and what aren't; do any have (positive) consequences in the real world?

I say this only all to aware that the line between the real world and the digital world is ever blurring.

TrinaMb said...

The allure of online acknowledgement is enchanting indeed. Had a recent discussion with a friend from the Phillipines recently - of course on line - revolving around the types of acknoweldgemnt and accolades one benefits from, and are cursed by with such online relationships and interactions. Sad, but true, there are oft times where we may may be championed in a way online that we are not in real life. Or, as you mention, ignore real life passions. The crux of it is to reset, and aim in the direction of our goals - when we bother to put them in front of us that is. :-)

Jason (the commenter) said...

The Internet is a dangerous black hole of attention. You can get lost and never return to your normal self. I gave up reading classical literature for two years.

I've been blogging classical literature, which I read on-line for the most part, so it's kind of weird to hear someone say this.

Lethe said...

@Jason In one of my essays, "Is the Internet Killing Culture?" I talk address the other side, that is, how the Internet can be a boon to creative and intellectual pursuits . . .

Kelvin Oliver said...

I think I'm more of an Internet addict, but as long as I know I have Internet and can get online then I'm less of one, but I can't go days without. I am always online, well at least my computer is connected and I'm off and on whenever possible now since I have work to do. I think this is a good post because it does allow us to look into the world of others and realize in some way or another we are all the same when it comes to the Internet and social media.

Partha Pratim said...

I guess, we don't even realize how much we are absorbed or obsessed with it. At times we don't even talk to some people whom we poke online or comment on their status updates. It is a strange behavior.

Christopher said...

I have blogged a few times about social networking. It has eaten up some of my free time but so far I have found it completely worth it.

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