The Digital Bubble

That’s right, it’s another article on the Internet bemoaning the Internet, but in my defense, it was first written as a draft in a paper notebook at least a couple of weeks ago, so that makes it OK. Because I say so. So there.

It seems to me that at this point, we are far enough in that it’s unlikely we will get out. We have replaced the genuine community of place with the faux-community of shared identity, belief, and values. No longer face to face, we have become blips on a screen, desperately trying to get some sense of what we’ve lost and what many under 35-40 have never experienced.

The problem is that the Internet is always there, telling us what we want to hear, with our carefully curated opinions that need not be challenged by reality. In our hidy hole, it is safe, and even the negative is comforting since it confirms our worldview. But the funny thing about a worldview is that no one is objective. What you choose to focus on says much about you as a person, for good or ill. It is one thing to keep up generally on “the news”, though I’m skeptical of the value of that even, at least for myself, but to spend countless hours on “analysis” that really doesn’t change from year to year is not a fruitful use of time, in my opinion.

One could argue the same of books, but I think it depends greatly on the book and the motivation for reading it. If the result of constant reading is more or less nil, then it too is a waste of time. Most books are no more worth reading than chatter worth listening to. Most people choose books that tickle their ears too. Of course, I realize it could also be said of the Internet that it depends on the user and his motivation, but I think it is a different beast altogether. More often than not, I have heard the excuse from others as well as myself that it is “interactive” and “not passive like TV” and you can choose what to look at and it’s educational, etc.; but I think this is merely the justification of an addict.

This is a good article that describes what I’m talking about well: I Was A Podcast Addict There’s the avoidance, the addictive aspect along with excuses and justifications, the curating of opinions, and the effect it has on the author’s life. It may seem an extreme example, but is it really so extreme? I don’t think it’s actually all that far from what many people do.

The common thread is an avoidance of living now, or of being in the present moment. Everything we do is distraction of one sort of another. When do most people just sit in quiet contemplation? I think it is absolutely necessary to do this. And I don’t think that includes endless mental chatter directed at some god or other. It means you quiet yourself so you can hear the breeze outside, you notice the sound of water dripping somewhere, a bird chirping, the traffic hum, the shoes on feet walking on the sidewalk outside – that is, your surroundings and how they impact you. If your surroundings include the constant interference of “news”, this is not conducive to a peaceful mind and one that can notice what needs to be taken care of.

We are expert avoiders. As a writer I’ll add that we also don’t need to try to capture every thought. A thought worth capturing will return when it wants to be captured if we forget after the moment passes. Whatever it was, it probably won’t make that much difference anyway, and if it was really good it’s probably already captured in some philosophy book or holy text or whatever. So don’t sweat it!

But I must inevitably reach the conclusion once more that the Internet is more of a pain than it is useful in many ways. Mostly people lack the self-control to impose limits on themselves and they like their comforts. The easiest of comforts is firing up your electronic device of choice and bringing up whatever it is that comforts you. Rather than taking responsibility for your own happiness, you anesthetize yourself with the protective impulse that takes you down familiar and thus comfortable paths.

The Internet: Helping you avoid yourself since 1994 (or thereabouts). While this isn’t directly related to tidying up, it kind of is. It relates the the mentality of clutter and kind of where I started with clearing out the mind clutter. It is hard to tidy one’s life without getting the mental part under control. Half of the game is 50% mental, as Yogi Berra said, and I’ve demonstrated this with the example of smoking cigarettes. The physical aspect is not the hard part of quitting but the mental/habit element. So it is with the Internet. The thing itself isn’t the problem so much as people’s habits that have formed around it, the “fix” they get from it, and the easy rewards it offers along with the illusion of being productive.

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2 thoughts on “The Digital Bubble

  1. Lots of food for thought here, and i agree that it is important to just sit and contemplate and enjoy silence.

    I readily admit that while I can enjoy silence when I am sitting still (and make a point of actually stopping and looking at my kids while they speak at least some of the time) I am prone to using to distractions while working. Maybe because I’m lazy and it’s easier to complete the task on autopilot, but I definitely do it.

    As with most things in my life, I am blessed to be doing life with someone who is pretty good at just *stopping* and encouraging me to do the same.

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  2. I used to have music on as a near-constant thing and I hardly ever do now. I daresay I’ve got pretty good at not needing distractions for everyday tasks. It’s when there’s not much to do that it gets to be a problem for my whole family and it just irritates the hell out of me. It’s the first and last thing everyone does and way too much time in between.

    But I think a huge part of the problem is living in such a small space. Everyone is engaging in escapism and it’s impossible not to see everyone’s habits. People and their habits! Arg!

    I’m the one in our house always reminding everyone to put the bloody phones down now and again. I hate looking around and seeing *everyone* staring at a screen. Not only that but I’ll say something and am met with silence because everyone is lost in distractions. Now that really annoys the hell out of me. So there’s your context!

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