Hanging on, Letting go
Don’t be fooled by the Internet. Use the computer – don’t let the computer use you. Y’all saw the Matrix. - Prince
People are co-located but unconnected. And they’re unconnected with themselves and more and more they’re unconnected their own families and their own ancestry and they’re absolutely getting more disconnected from the earth. - Jon Young, Nature and Genius: Awakening Our Ancient Potential for Health, Happiness & Creative Emergence
Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse. - Sophocles
This month, as we’re putting the garden to bed, I’ve slowly been putting to bed my relationship with social media. I’ve already deleted my Instagram and I’ve finally wrapped up Facebook. While I wasn't engaging much on FB, I was still “lurking” and I’d still been using the Messenger app, which I’ve also now deleted. Facebook has been the hardest platform to let go of so far, because I’ve been using it the longest and it seems to be where a great many of the people I know congregate online. The Threat is that I’ll miss out on this person’s photos, or that important event announcement. But now I know, and know truly, that what I’ll also miss out on are toxic rants, belittling comments, arrogant, thoughtless insults to one group or another. I’ll miss out on advertisers telling me what to buy, governments telling me what to Think, and “news” corporations telling me what to Fear. I will not miss feeling like a product being sold.
I’ve lived my life partially online since university, when I got my first email address. As the digital world progressed, I joined Facebook, Google, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube. Rarely has there been a day over the last 15 years that I haven’t spent time scrolling...and scrolling...and scrolling.
Now at 45, I can say with certainty that 25 years of heavy screen dosing has had a devastating effect on my psyche. My stress levels, my ability to control my emotions, to think critically and concentrate for long periods – all have been damaged by the social media.
These global media companies have now become so huge and bloated with our data, they’re called “tech giants.” Their influence (along with big banking and big pharma ) has crept like fog through billions of mental keyholes around the world. People have built businesses and relationships that rely on being accepted by these surveillance overlords, who have given out their services for “free,” driven dependency among their users and now, from high in their wealth towers, are anointing themselves as the judges of what speech should be allowed and what should not. Those in their good graces get a platform on which to speak. Those who aren’t are kicked off the soapbox into the dot-com wilderness. In the court of online public opinion, a person found guilty of “wrong think” can now be quickly “doxed” - their private information shared online in order to shame or threaten them. Think of it as being burned at the digital stake. The people pointing their avatar fingers move on to the next target, not bothered by the shattered human life they’ve left in their wake. As we become more politically polarized, human empathy is plummeting. Meanwhile, the corporations suck up all they can drain from us - our wealth, our thoughts, our sovereign freedoms.
Who is Facebook? They certainly don’t have an office where I live. Neither do Twitter or Google. They’re not even Canadian companies. So much of Human Creativity has been ushered into a few huge virtual holding pens. Like massive centralized feedlots for beef, except for our Minds. The advertisers are the customers, we are the product. Our dopamine receptors wait anxiously for the next notification hit, each buzz or blinking light making our neurons drool like Pavlov’s dogs. How well trained we’ve become. How civilized.
Meanwhile, the Earth hums on, going about the business of Life and Death. For the longest time of our Human history, it was always the landscape that influenced the people in any given area. We were shaped by the weather, by the availability of food and water, by the Beauty of the Life around us. Today it’s the Humans who influence the Landscape. We take our technology everywhere we go, and set ourselves above the Earth. We’ve believe so strongly in our dominion over the Natural World, we somehow think it comes without Consequence.
Social media is a drug and nearly everyone I know is addicted. The old Stories often feature an epic battle between an underdog and a giant. David and Goliath. The Norse Gods against the Frost Giants. That’s how it feels like that when you’re battling a habit that you know is doing you harm. But as Lao Tzu said “To attain Knowledge, add things every day. To attain Wisdom, subtract things every day.” The ship I’m attempting to turn for myself is away from the online world, into the everyday, Living World.
You hear about smokers who have quit and who save up all the money they would have otherwise spent. Instead of money, I’m taking back Time from social media and spending it on ways that will make me feel more content in my remaining years. Time to build my herbal apothecary and increase my local eco-literacy. Time to learn to hand sew and maybe make that sack dress I’ve been yearning for. Time to write old-fashioned letters to a handful of close friends and family instead of marketing to get the attention of People I don’t even know. Time to focus on challenges closer to home, rather than on all the chaos happening in places I can never Hope to be of help. Time to nurture Rooted, in-Person Relationships instead of fleeting online connections.
I’m glad Facebook spyware will get no more of my Attention, no more of my Creativity, no more of my data. I no longer use Twitter or Pinterest, and I don’t watch Netflix or TV. I do indulge in YouTube, but I’m limited in how much video I can watch, thanks to being on satellite internet. Sometimes it’s good to have controls that limit one’s binging behaviour. So many of us are already using the screen as a go-between for Human interaction, that it hasn’t been such a big shift for us to allow our governments to coax us like cattle to avoid in-person gatherings, and instead embrace the “new normal” of Cold, distant Zoom calls (for our own safety, of course). I’m actually quite relieved I’m not able to participate. Sorry – internet too slow.
I know technology corporations and their government pals will continue their colonizing encroachment into our day-to-day lives, promising convenience and slipping in more regulations and surveillance under our screen-addicted noses. All I can do is try to do is draw as much of a safety net around my mind as I can. I want rid of google and gmail. I have no more data on my cell phone, and have vowed to take car adventures without it. I used to do it before cell phones existed – why is it so hard now? I know I’ve become emotionally and mentally dependant on these technologies. Like many people, I now feel “unsafe” when when I’m not connected. However I’m at the point where feeling less in control is a fair tradeoff for feeling more Free and Alive in the real, Sensual World.
Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.
- Ernest Hemingway