Raging against the machine

Do you find my brain? - Auf der Suche nach mei...

Image by alles-schlumpf via Flickr

After careful consideration and much field testing, I have come to the premature but inescapable conclusion that the internet and more specifically social media is having a negative affect on human beings and our society as a whole.

I believe the reason narcissism is running so rampant online, is because everyone can see their name and picture up on the big (little)  screen. Up in lights so to speak.  We don’t all just have 15 minutes of fame we have fame 24/7/ 365.  As long as we’re plugged in we are famous. We can see ourselves shinning bright, like twinkling cyber-stars against the black, bandwidth sky.  Whatever comes into our heads can be shared. Can be pushed out to millions of people, like it or not our voices will be heard.

Blogs like this. Seemingly giving some sort of informed opinion. Why should we care? Why should you read this? The answer is you shouldn’t, and there’s no real reason to.

We are all experts, why? Because I just said so and now it has been retweeted five hundred times, that’s why.

Yeah, it’s great to see the headline unfold, or discover some coverup before it hits the mainstream, but the internet is not going to stop evil men from doing evil deeds, you’re just going to know about it faster. Does it shine a light on corruption? Sure, is it a deterrent? I don’t think so. Does it uncover hidden truths, it can. Will it stop lies, I don’t think so. Information breeds disinformation, manipulation abounds.  What we see is not always what is real, and what is real is not always what we see.

Personally, I have found you don’t have to have the internet to uncover hidden truths. You can find out for yourself.  Back in the early 90’s I took a trip to Dallas TX with a friend. One day I ventured off by myself to see Dealey Plaza with my own eyes. I had read much about the Kennedy assassination. Including Two wonderful books by Mark Lane, books that had real pages that even turned brown if you left them out in the sun. But I digress. I took the “official” tour, looked out that window at the Texas School Book Depository. Realized the sheer improbability of it all.  I walked up the grassy knoll, stood by the fences, walked and stood at different locations that the “unofficial” tour suggested. Ah, the truth, sometimes it can stare you right in the face. That is if you leave your house and look for it . . . There is nothing that could have then or now, replaced the experience of seeing history up close and yes, quite personal.

I believe we have all been re-wired. The constant stream of information, updates, texts, tweets, scrolling, clicking . . . It is starting to change us . . .  We all have the attention span of an ant. And I know for a fact that ants have very short attention spans. I know this because I once saw an ant and I took a picture of it and uploaded it to Twitter and it got retweeted so it’s true.

Facebook for all the fun we have on it, and personally I am just as guilty as everyone else, as I love to post the potty training habits of my daughter, I mean that’s beyond narcissism. Really Jaime?  It’s fun, it’s a great way to stay connected and as far as social media goes it may be the most benign form, that said, as a multi billion dollar company FB is probably one of the biggest threats to our privacy that we’ve ever known.  And with every change, it invades more.

The internet as a whole is just a repository for everything we’ve ever said, thought, or burped in our lifetime. A living documentation of all our failures, our triumphs, our tragedies. We rail against this or that and it is imprinted, recorded, stored forever somewhere out “There” it exists. Waiting to be retrieved at the worst possible time.  Is that a good thing? One could argue that it’s up to the individual to be careful as to what he or she says. But what about free speech? As we all know free speech comes with a heavy price. Now, our speech, our status, where we are, where we go, what we like,  what we think in a moment of intoxication, or bitter boredom, all of it can come back to haunt us, or worse, be used against us . . .

But why are we now bound by this infinitely boundless and limitless technology? Why does it have a stranglehold on the very fabric of our day-to-day existence? Why are we all playing this game? Do we have to? Is it to late to go back? Back to a simpler time. A time when we took walks outside and talked to people in the flesh? When we had to wait three days for a letter?

I’ve been sucked in like everyone else. But Is there an escape? Will the world as we know it cease to exist if we stop posting, updating,  tweeting, and checking the news and . . . . Can we slow down? Can we jump off this speeding train?

One of my latest pet peeves with social media is the lack of historical perspective, or context especially on Twitter. The context for most discourse is usually the last 30 seconds. Or perhaps the last hour, or maybe the last week. In rare instances maybe the year. It is information in a bubble. 140 characters telling us the most up to date information in a vacuum. As it relates to absolutely nothing else. In a chat or discussion an expert can be any one who has an opinion. Or tweets the fastest. It is a contest of the absurd. Whoever gets the most followers wins. It is virtual classism, a caste system if you will, couched in a feel good, self promoting machine that lulls you into thinking that you have to be a part of it. Am I a part of it? For now, yes. Have I ever been comfortable being a part of it? No.

Do I really know what I’m talking about just because I tweet it, or post it? And should you listen to me? Which opinions do we give more weight to? The ones that make us laugh, or cry? The ones we agree with even though they may or may not be based on fact or anything more than the tweeter’s own limited personal experience?

Do we all really need phones that are so powerful they could launch the space shuttle? Why do we always have to be connected? What happens if we disconnect? Will that quiet and brave act actually connect us on a deeper level?

I feel like we collectively in this country and for that matter around most parts of the world have become voyeurs of the highest order. Always peaking in through the windows of stranger’s lives.  Even many of our  friends on FB are people we couldn’t recognize in “real” life. People we don’t even really know.

Why is it that we have this need to reveal our innermost thoughts, desires, experiences to the world? Is it something innate in our collective DNA. Lying dormant, waiting for the internet and social media to trigger it? Or do we all just want to be heard? Are we as human beings just very lonely creatures who crave contact from other human beings. In an increasingly dangerous world, it is far safer and easier to make contact and forge relationships (however surface they may be, ) online than out there in the world. (In most cases that is.)

For me, the “grid” makes me nauseous a lot of the time. It makes me nervous. The constant flow of everything, all the time. Like drinking ten cups of coffee in a row. Even when it’s turned off, you can feel it.  It takes time to really turn it all off. A few days off the grid and you can begin to relax. Not feel anxious about missing the latest post, or tweet, or update. But the craving returns, like a bucket of KFC chicken, or a chipotle burrito. You’ve gotta have it. You have to know what’s going on. What did I miss, what happened?

What do we all hope to gain from all of this? Is there an endgame? Is there a winner? Are there losers?

This is a work in progress. A dispatch from someone who still doesn’t really buy into the whole thing, but is still going along with it. (at least until I post this.) Hoping he will see what everyone else sees. Playing along because, it’s what everyone else is doing.  But this person is getting tired of playing. Tired of the grid pecking away at my attention span. Tired of peaking through windows just because I can.

Tired of feeling like this whole social experiment is not really what we’re supposed to be doing with our time . . .


2 responses to “Raging against the machine

  1. LOL @ tweeting ants.
    I deleted my twitter account with thousands of followers mostly because of what you describe in this post. Now I have a new lil bitty twitter account but honestly I’m just not feeling it. Just like the FB games, the whole thing feels like a fad to me. I know so many people that thrive with a merging of twitter meets real life. I’m not one of them. When I first started in social media it was all about MySpace for me. I loved looking for artists, music, interesting people. I could jump from one avatar image to the next & find so many new ideas, people etc… I could also look at their history meaning the posts they had up that stayed there, I could browse through & get to know them a bit. I met many people in “real life” that I met online first & that really changed my view about cyberspace & what it has to offer. To sum up this very long post because I’m forgetting about attention spans here… don’t give up hope. Being connected in such a constant & techy way can be a good thing. Just like so many other things, social media is always evolving. Time for me to go post a pic on FB of the ultra nutritious dinner I had tonight, or maybe another dazzling photoshopped webcam pic of myself. Oh the decisions I have to make these days. 😉

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