Hurtling towards a Digital Derailment

Facebook literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains. It’s a social-validation feedback loop… exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators … understood this consciously, and we did it anyway.
~ Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president.

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We are living in times when miserable college students are posting suicide notes on message boards of anonymous apps like Yik Yak. Our kids are posting Snapchat stories because where else would you post stuff that you don’t want your mom and dad to see but don’t mind if it stays on the internet for eternity? Absolute strangers on Whisper, an anonymous app, are hearing people confessing about the secret affairs they’re having.

We are living in times when technology has become a means for self expression. We are measuring our social currency in the number of likes and hearts our Instagram or Twitter posts receive. We are becoming masters of content generation and distribution, and our content curation skills are also on the rise. Cue, how many filters and retakes does that one perfect selfie get?

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If you’re like me and use the internet mostly for browsing, chances are you’ve assumed you’re pretty good at the craft because its been a hobby of yours forever. Chances are you must’ve come across the picture of Kim Kardashian that broke the internet and debated with your friends if the Black and Blue dress that left the world mesmerized for a day, was actually gold. But there are things that a few of us, as Baby boomers, Generation Xers, the Millennials and the current Generation Z, have to think about when it comes to our Technology habits. By technology, I don’t mean all the wonderful things that our forefathers have invented to make our lives better, for example the thermostats that allows our water heaters to shut off automatically. By technology, I’m talking about the Digital revolution we’re in.

There are two parts to this essay.

Part I: How we’re becoming a generation of tech junkies giving props via likes and hearts to others’ artfully curated and crafted social media posts.

Part II. How to practice Digital minimalism, so we don’t waste precious resources like focus (the new age currency), time and monies – skimming the Internet.

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The 10 headed Demon of Social Media

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National technology trends today: 

  • Generation Z (born between 1995–2015) are able to multi-task on FIVE screens at the same time.
  • People now consume more content on OTTs than on traditional media. Wiki: Over-the-top content (OTT) is any audio, video, and other media transmitted via the Internet as a standalone product, without the use of Cable or Satellite television operating systems. Ex: Netflix, YouTube.
  • The age demographic 18 to 29 use the most social media, 98% of them about 2 hours a day. High social media use is shown to increase stress. Currently, the top 3 diagnosis in Colleges are: anxiety, depression and stress.
  • 3 fourths of the people polled at Stanford have said they would rather forget their wallet than their phone.
  • In 2016: More than one billion people used Facebook each day. 1/4 of all time spent on the internet was spent using Facebook. For many people, Facebook is the internet. It’s the first place most people go to announce weddings, births, deaths, and other major life events.
  • In 2012: In one study from Anxiety UK, 45 percent of people felt worried or uncomfortable as a result of not being able to access their social networks or email. And Nomophobia—fear of being without a mobile phone—affects over 66 percent of the population.

Nearly one in twelve 13 year olds are afraid that they’re addicted to porn. Why? Because they can’t stop thinking about it. They can’t stop thinking about searching for a new video, watching a new experience, seeing something that they haven’t seen before. They’re looking for more and they’re looking for different. They can’t help it, because that’s how brains work.
~ On porn addiction in teens by Ben Halpert

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Our present day digital landscape can be described as: 

1. Our World is full of Superficial stories:
Consequently, we assume:
Going deep is not necessary to stay relevant.
2. Our World is full of Distraction addiction:
Consequently, we wonder:
If Focus is not a game changer. 
3. Our World is full of Content creators:
Consequently, we worry:
Everyone but you is doing epic shit. 
4. Our World is full of Busy people:
Consequently, we infer:
Busy is the new efficient. 
5. Our World is full of Information distribution:
Consequently, we are:
Obsessed, overloaded, and overworked. 

I tweet, I post, I blog, therefore I am.
~ Dr. Mark Federman

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Our lives are in a Quandary: 

Why do humans feel the need to stay connected? As long as humanity has existed, humans have felt the need to make meaningful connections to make their voice heard and their impact felt. And technology has made it possible to get and stay connected with friends. Lots of them. But, as we increase our social networking capital online, we are increasingly becoming disparate between our online and offline selves. We are:

  • More connected, but having less meaningful conversations.
  • Traveling less distances, but becoming more emotionally distant.
  • Being transparent but becoming less authentic.
  • Sharing heart stickers with strangers, but being less intimate with loved ones.
  • Consuming too much information, but thinking less about what we are ingesting.
  • Finding out more about strangers, but inquiring less about our true selves.

In 2016, this is how we balanced work and home:
Integrators: Work and home blend.
Separators: Clear line between work and personal life. Very low tech at home.
The Fusion lover: Almost completely mix work with personal life.
The Cycler: Switches between integrating and separating work and home.

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The 12 mistakes that we are making with our use of technology:

1. We don’t teach ourselves and our kids how to use a particular app or website.
2. We don’t pause daily to assess our technology needs.
3. We allow our children access to devices even before they can speak or wipe their butt.
4. We are in denial of our distraction addictions.
5. We don’t realize being mindlessly busy is not the same as being consciously efficient.
6. We give permission to technology to abuse us and our time.
7. We feel bored and reach out to our phones for instant excitement.
8. We are derailing our intuition with chaotic external stimuli.
9. We have basic human needs – internet, food, air, water, in that order.
10. We consume media and information on the internet with little to no social context.
11. We are Facebook Live streaming suicides, funerals along Ed Sheeran concerts. 
12. We have the driving selfie, the bathroom selfie, and the funeral selfie. Finally! 

Technology - 4 (2) - 02292016
© Internet

If you’re driving 55 miles an hour, and look down at your phone for 5 seconds, you’ve just now driven the length of an entire football field completely blind.
~ Allison Graham

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Social evils brought about by the “Necessary evil” Technology: 

We all remember the time when Anthony Weiner lived upto his name. How did he do that? By sexting to strangers on the internet, of course.

  • Keyboard Activism: Gone are the days when movements and protests took weeks and months to organize. The means by which activists are making protests, petitions and persuasion tactics for change in mass mentality using online methods has risen to what’s being referred to as Keyboard activism. Like in traditional activism, unfortunately, most people engage in this form of activism if its easy (in this case, a click of button to spread the message), non committal and comes at no particular personal cost.
  • FOMO: 7 out of 10 people feel the need to be on some form of social media, because of FOMO. The fear of missing out because you’re not connected to your peer group is difficult. The choice can leave one feeling isolated. Imagine the number of Facebook invites, garage sales and school closure information you missing out on – can be one’s validation to hang onto their online community. People report even having biological responses for fear of social anxiety.
  • Highlight Reel: 1100 college students commit suicide every year in the US. High standards of life are brought about stupid comparison stories people tell themselves in their head. No one knows the background of the person who has a flamboyant highlight reel on Instagram. Raw personal stories of struggle almost never make it to the wall on any given day. Even when a tumor is being removed today, a person will wait for 15 days to share their experience, while today he or she is liking pictures of their friends from the hospital bed.
  • Superficial Social Capital: Likes, comments, shares – This is the Attention Economy that we live in. Consequently, we are victims of the reinforcement paradigm. We are taking down pictures if they don’t get enough likes. Middle school kids post mostly after 5pm on Instagram, so they can get the most activity on their posts.
  • Online Harassment: 40% have experienced it and 73% have witnessed it. You just have to look at the comments section of any article on any website to see the violent nature of the dark side of the internet. Trolls, cyber bullies abound – hiding behind fake screen names and masked IP addresses.
  • Content creation and Distribution: We are living in a world of information avalanches that are choking up the internet and in turn our brain waves. The first lesson on the harmful affects of Email itself should be a great reminder. “Email is someone else’s important agenda for you to work on.”
  • Counter Productivity: Technology was supposed to be a super cool addition to make our hectic lives as efficient as possible. Instead, it has turned out to be the main stay of our lives, while we try to work on our big goals in the margins. We are fighting daily matches of distractions to eek out a few minutes here and there between our social media and Internet consumption to work on our serious personal and professional goals.
  • Social Forgetting: People are becoming victims of their own stupid behavior online, because the internet has the memory of an elephant. There have been instances of many employees who have been fired or are in fear of losing their jobs because of their personal photos on the internet, many of which have been taken out of context from years ago.
  • Phubbing: People give their devices more company than their loved ones who’re sitting across them in the same room. People attend parties, so that they can feed their #hashtag addiction by posting pictures of the event on their social media statuses. See those duck faced aunties pouting for selfies while giving the chills to their teenage children?
  • Ghosting: Dictionary says, Ghosting is the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. Young people ghost each other these days after going on dates for a few times. They simply don’t have the people skills to face the other person to say, “Maybe this is not working out. Lets not hang out anymore.”
  • Fake Opinions: Hotels, restaurants, books, movies – So many places you can champion the opinion on the internet. Ugh. Some books on Amazon.com have 3000 comments. Reddit is full of *$#$%*#$%#$%, that I know so many 20 year olds are spending their entire days reading and laughing across coffee shops all across the world. Who are these people who have the time to consume everything that’s on the internet??? Why are we creating so much content?? Who’s having the last laugh?
Technology - 12 (2)
Whatsapp

Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.
~ Stewart Brand

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Mental issues lead to Physical ailments:
Other addiction disorders like eating, shopping and gambling are well known, but internet addiction that’s leading to a mass phenomenon of foggy hysteria is not being adapted as a real addiction. Along with a long list of ailments like headaches, dry and red eyes, vision loss, weight gain there are other physical manifestations of stressors of our modern technology driven lives.

  • Text Neck: Wiki: Text neck is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently.
  • Phantom Vibration: Wiki: Phantom vibration syndrome or phantom ringing is the perception that one’s mobile phone is vibrating or ringing when it is not ringing.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome is the inflammation of the median nerve in the wrists. Not using ergonomic equipment can exacerbate pain and numbness in the area.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Its important to remember that the gut is the second brain. And anxiety, FOMO, depression and the inability to focus can lead to long term digestive disorders.

There are 4 major repercussions of over use of technology.
1. Increase in anxiety.
2. Decrease in our ability to attend and focus for extended periods of time.
3. Boredom.
4. New found ability to be unable to talk to anyone face to face.
~ Dr. Larry Rosen
The Distracted mind: Ancient brains in a high-tech world.

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How to determine if you’ve a digital addiction problem:

In countries like China and Korea, internet addiction is classified with cigarettes, alcohol and gambling as an addiction. It has been possible only because this obsessive compulsive behavior of “Screen Sucking” can be seen out in the open in internet cafes and the video gaming culture in these countries.

Here in America, we’ve been slow to adapt to that idea owing to our culture of Euphemism, or what I call “sugar coating shit”. “We’re sitting up late until 2am to watch Epic Fail videos on YouTube anyway, when has a little phone browse on the side harmed anyone? And everyone’s doing it, you can’t label the entire country addicted? If anything, we’re mildly obsessed with our phones. That’s it.”

Let’s see if that’s true, shall we? If you’ve said “Yes” to most of these behaviors below, then you, my friend, have a Digital addiction problem and are well on your way to a Digital derailment. 

  • You don’t think your excessive use of technology is a problem at all. 
  • You don’t find it exciting to fulfill any familial or parental responsibilities. 
  • Your children are raising themselves. 
  • You’re never in the moment. 
  • You feel like you’re muddling through life, with no clarity of purpose.
  • You’re a master at opening 20 apps or browser tabs in under a minute.
  • You feel like a loser after watching Kim Kardashian’s latest Instagram video.
  • You miss your phone when you go to the bathroom. 
  • You can’t even “go”, without clicking something on your phone. 
  • You have anxiety when your phone battery is low. 
  • You’ve been threatened with divorce if you don’t give up Candy Crush or Farmville. 
  • You go to sleep with your phone next to you. 
  • You buy stuff online that you don’t remember about until it arrives at your door.
  • You stay up very late to watch “stuff online” using your earphones. 

Men are more susceptible to compulsive behavior with online/video gaming, cyberporn and online gambling, while women are more likely to become addicted to sexting, texting, social media, eBay and online shopping.
~ On technology addiction by Dr. Kimberly Young

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Coming up next: How to practice Digital Minimalism

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