We’ve all seen and some of us have commented overmuch on the affect having these hyper connected super computers in our pockets has had on us.
We’ve all seen twenty somethings (and some of us have noticed the seventy somethings as well, to say nothing of the rest of us) turning in to c-shaped people barely ever looking up from their devices, endlessly chasing those dopatonin hits (I can never remember which one it is, give me some fucking rope) at such a pace that defies, quite literally, all reason.
We’ve all seen value and values grow more and more shallow.
Over the last twenty years I’ve watched people going from condescending to put their cell phone and their blackberrys on the bar, annoyed when they’d get an email or a call from The Office in the middle of a session to living one-handed, the cell phone becoming an appendage.
And I’ve watched, in the last ten years, those very same people go from having a cell phone as an appendage to being little more than an appendage for their cell phone.
We’ve gone from looking upwards hoping towards some day, to looking across, anxious to soon. And now we look down, demanding Now.
From albums, to songs, to samples.
From paintings, to images, to memes.
From novels, to articles, to tweets.
From philosophies, to quotes.
We demand everything and sacrifice nothing.
Or do we.
We’ve all watched this and seeing some of what it’s costing us.
We’re turning into some kind of animal longing for comfort of laying in the sun of abdication of the self.
We know it’s costing us something, which causes us to chase it more desperately, not realizing that the complete lack of silence in our lives has become a complete silence to ourselves.
But I saw something fairly recently that made me think rather a lot in rather a short amount of time.
I’m not going to talk about the specifics. Crossover to the real world isn’t really something I’m super hot on after all. The odd name here and there, sure. But certainly nothing like this.
I watched something I fear isn’t anywhere near the end game of this pathlessness we’re fighting for with everything we’ve got.
It was the end of self worth. The final wisp of self dissolve in the mad race for not merely reinforcement, but…something worse I can’t even really put my finger on, as if someone was waiting not to be validated but to be created, utterly dependent on a force something beyond carelessness, to a prideful scorn.
I watched someone lost in their dependence on others for their own sense of self worth get whipped around like a dog toy, totally aware of what was going on and endeavoring no defense, a state that amounted to regret for the future.
Though the facts would mark it out as an all too common story, never in my life had I seen it so nakedly.
And I suppose it could be a lot of things. I’m no shrink and am disinclined at the moment to swim in those waters.
But seemed to me to be the downstream of this massive zeitgeist of hollowing out of the soul, giving up everything of any meaning as our all too enthusiastic sacrifice to these twisted flippant gods through hand held silicon altars.
What defense after that do we have then against situations like the above? What strengths? What will? Hell, a sense of identity seems almost a Wu concept at this point, a pollyannic myth form.
We have no sense of meaning any more at all. Real purpose has fled from us entirely.
So, having groped my a bit more than thoroughly around that particular elephant, what’s the alternative?
That’s easy, but fucking tough.
Put the damned phone down.
If you can’t leave it home for a day, leave it in the car, leave it in the bag. Turn off your notifications, every one you don’t absolutely need. Do it for a month, a day, an hour.
There’s no way but to put the breaks on the flood.
Take all of these things in their reverse order.
Read fewer tweets and more articles, then essays, then novels.
Dispense with posting and sharing memes back and forth all over the place and go to websites (if you must) like DeviantArt (which has a tremendous amount of non-deviant art.) Go to a gallery and read a book on an artist, or artistic movement. Hell, one of the strangest things I ever learned was a whole hell of a lot (read: not all that much) about the Viennese Reniassance to impress a girl. The topic was more interesting than the girl.
Take your favorite oversampled, overproduced songstress (of which I have many. I claim little in the way of high moral ground here) and listen to one of their albums front to back. Maybe hunt down some of the samples they used and go listen to the originals. That’s an awful lot of fun. Go back a couple levels of “my inspirations were” from interviews (they can’t resist asking that question in interviews.) Then do some research. See where your favorite music really comes from.
Take your favorite “wisdom quips” that are posted in images (because words no longer serve) and go find where they come from. Read the original works. I guarantee most of the world has the wrong idea about Nietzsche, including some very smart people.
And, if you’re from my world: Stop using fucking stack overflow as an information source. Instead of looking up the solution to a programming syntax problem, go hunt down the original design principles, articles and tutorials, books and long-form lectures.
In a social setting, let a question remain unanswered. Resist that immediate pull. You don’t need to know that piece of blindingly irrelevant trivia. No one needs to know. There’s no general principle in there. But if you must reach for your phone, leave yourself a note to go digging around later, even if all you do is batch your research time. Make it a half hour a day of “resolving the questions of the day.” It’ll turn in to an hour (unless you end up on tvtropes, in which case you’re just fucked.)
And, for the Master Class: Think about why you believe what you believe. Do you even know WHAT you believe? Do you just regurgitate quips from your favorite public figures? Make THAT an exploration. Discover then develop your core philosophies. What do you demand of yourself? Where do you fail? What else is there to fix? How do you strive (if you even do)? Do you like who that is? No? What are you going to do about it? Sit around and hate yourself, or what little of “yourself” there even is?
You don’t have time? Why? You too busy watching fucking tiktoks? Fuck out of here with tiktok.
The power of technology needs to be brought to fucking heel and used as a tool for us, rather than us for it. But it takes intentionality, will, and a degree of personal power. And like any muscle, using it more and more will strengthen it. You will be less and less able to be cast completely adrift by the need for immediate gratification of some impulse you can’t even name.
Which way forward, modern man?