The Matrix Re-Revisited

I've noticed myself becoming something of a Luddite as of late. It's not that I believe technology is threatening my job per se, the human element is way too critical to the success of today's military, and although we are increasingly being augmented with technological enhancements, they do seem to be for the purpose of helping us rather than replacing us. Similarly, if I could somehow parlay writing in to a job as well, that wouldn't be threatened by machines or technology, as I don't believe there exists such a thing as AI with the ability to think for itself and form independent opinions (1997 came and went and still Skynet is not self-aware). I am starting to notice an impact on my personal relationships and how I live my life.

Yet I relate to the emotional state of those bands of English workers of the early 1800's whom saw their jobs being threatened by the advancement of machines and technology and, therefore, decided to rise up and smash them to bits. Coincidentally, as i'm transcribing these thoughts on my laptop I am listening to Pandora Internet Radio on my cell phone. The irony is not lost on me.

Here's where my discontent has begun to take form. One day, a couple of weeks ago, I was doing something I do best: I had some downtime at work. Nobody else was in the office and I was bored so I cranked up the 'ol Facebook app and started surfing my feed. I scrolled for a while, opened Instagram then Twitter. The information I see in each of these social media apps is "custom tailored" to my own liking. At least I would like to believe that since I've personally chosen which people to follow on each platform. While I was scrolling Facebook, I noticed something a little curious. I started seeing the same 15 posts from the same 15 people over and over again. I was caught in an annoying social whirlpool. After tinkering with my News Feed setting for a while I realized that the creators of the app had pushed out an update which had forced changed what I see to certain settings, only showing recent posts instead of all posts, the way I wanted it. So that was annoying to say the least.

Now after about 45 minutes of cruising each of these platforms, getting annoyed with "friends" whom I haven't seen or directly interacted with (phone call, text messages, email, which ever of the seemingly fucking hundreds of ways our current society has to stay in touch with each other) in decades if ever, seeing endless strings of political drivel and sociopolitical talking heads nonsensically bashing our government over bullshit instead of attempting to find solutions, sitting idly by as trolls and idiots type things to each other which would NEVER be said in the context of a normal conversation, I had an epiphany. I had spent nearly an hour grazing in the oft poison fields of social media and had nothing to show for it minus some disappointment in myself for losing that time. I fully understand that my feed is of my own creation yet I couldn't help but think that if I had cultivated a more positive feed from the start I would have still wasted that time, only I would be in a better mood instead of feeling like Facebook/Instagram/Twitter had blown their collective, infected, snotty noses all over my brain.

I will not discount the positive social effects of social media. There have been many social revolutions of a sort spring boarded from these very platforms. To name a couple: In October of 2017, the #MeToo movement set off a firestorm in the digital world, glaring a spotlight on those disgusting few who chose to exercise some form of power over individuals in order to sexually victimize and denigrate them, leading to charges, arrests and, in some cases, recognition and closure for the victims. The #BLM Movement is another such activist movement, originally created to shed light on unfair and biased treatment and systematic racism against people of color, created shortly after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

So social media can be an important tool in our society. What I'm realizing however, is most people are not just using it, they are falling victim to it. I'm going to do some math in public here so prepare for me to be slightly embarrassed if this blows up in my face:

The average American works eight hours a day. School aged children are in classes for seven or eight hours per day depending on where you live.

The recommended amount of sleep per night is eight hours, i seem to function best on that if/when I can get it.

Studies show that we spend, roughly, an hour per day eating meals.

Let's say we spend 45 minutes taking care of personal hygiene (showering/bathing, brushing teeth/hair, shaving, etc... you get the point right?)

If we do all of this stuff independent of each other, then that leaves about six and a half hours of personal usable time in the day. For those with children we can probably assume that the majority of those six and a half hours will be partially, if not completely consumed with spending time with them.

Now, other studies show that the average American spends anywhere from 2 - 5 hours per day engaging with their phones, part of that being social media. These studies speak to a world inhabited by those wishing, more than anything else, that they could escape it.

I realized this about myself and it angered me.

I developed a pretty strong man crush a while ago on a guy named Simon Sinek. I saw a video in which he was interviewed about the topic of millennials in the workplace. Fantastic video, this dude has insight for days. One of the things he brought up in this interview was how people are literally addicted to social media. Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/etc. uses a system of notifications to let you know someone has "reacted" to something you've posted. That notification translated to, essentially, a dopamine hit in your brain, giving you a rush of good feelings, making you feel, in a sense, accomplished or validated. Social media preys on those dopamine receptors, staying alive as a sort of "good vibes" vampire.

I knew this and yet I continued using these things...It angered me.

Here's where I now sit. That was a very in-depth, rambling diatribe(ish) way of making the somewhat cliche declaration of: I'm activating the self destruct codes on my social media pages (apparently there's a built-in safeguard on Facebook which makes you sit in timeout for 14 days and "think" about your decision). Similar to my past addiction with alcohol, I find relatively huge chunks of my life missing thanks to social media and the likes thereof. I'm redesigning my life to focus more on what matters and less on trivial, inconsequential lines of incoherent code, translated on my computer screen as addictive balderdash and my social media is the first thing to go.

I would also encourage those who read what I write here to consider it. Do an honest assessment of your activities on these sites/apps. If your activity consists of nothing more than sharing snippets of your day, pictures of what you are doing/have done: food pics (fuckin weird trend, although I have been guilty), family pics, places you've visited, descriptions of things you are doing/have done, recycling quotes (sometimes misquotes) from famous authors/philosophers, then ask yourself for what purpose you are putting these things on social media. Who are you posting these for and what are you attempting to do. More often than not, my posting actions were being driven strictly by ego, I wanted others to see what I was doing, wanted to try to prove in some way that my life was way more interesting that it may really be. My life is awesome, i'm not saying it's not, but you rarely see people posting mundane life details or relational inter-personal struggles on these, so if you're not going to give an entire picture of yourself online, why give any?

We need to get back to a society built on personal interactions with real people, not their falsified digital representations. I understand that a lot of business today occurs in the digital realm but does that mean we also have to live our lives on it? I think the answer is no. Let's learn once again how to be a people who enjoy being outdoors and when we are outdoors, actually be there. It's the damnedest thing, going canoeing, hiking, kayaking and seeing people experiencing it all through the lens of their cell phone cameras, living in real time online (once again, guilty as charged). Put the fucking things down, LIVE the experience you're in and stop wishing you were only an avatar.

Without trying to sound like the manifesto of a technophobic maniac, I'd like to say let's start existing again in the real world, with each other, for each other. Help me lessen the societal divide and cut down on the audacious behavior which social media has help run rampant. Call me, text me, personally contact me. But if you're hoping to reach me on social media, hopefully I have put the final pin in that part of my life.

Tank, I need an exit.

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