Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Maybe We Should All Just Turn off the Computer

I only recently heard of the concept of FOMO as applied to social media...Fear of Missing Out. The article I read was about how people keep their phones and computers handy even when they're out with friends because they are worried about missing out on a better opportunity. I didn't relate to that at all--if I'm out, I'm out, you know? But I can relate to a general fear of missing out as related to social media, not as much anymore? but definitely in the past. There was always something going on and I didn't want to miss it. But things have changed for me in the way I use social media and I don't think it's necessarily for the better.

I then read a short article about a recent study done that suggested social media fuels low self-esteem and anxiety. And...I thought, "yes I can totally see that" When life sucks, it's hard to want to log-in to Facebook and share that with the world and see everyone being happy about their totally different life circumstances. Being online has also been a constant reminder of how there will always always always be someone better at things than I am, someone smarter, someone more articulate, more discerning, more interesting, more thoughtful, funnier (okay that one is a given ;), more clever, luckier, with more time. There are times when I feel very lost online and as if there's really no point to keeping the blog--anything I have to say about books/TV someone else will have already said better, I read old posts and almost want to die from the embarrassment that I thought it was so important to share my thoughts. So I could totally understand the results of this study.

And then today Newsweek had a longer in-depth piece that really explored the negative way the internet is affecting us. It quotes authors of two books I've been meaning to read all year, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (I actually started this--and haven't finished which is ironic) and Alone Together by Sherry Turkle. It's pretty thought provoking and I recognized some of my own bad habits in the article.

The Internet “leads to behavior that people are conscious is not in their best interest and does leave them anxious and does make them act compulsively... It “fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions"

Yes. This was the first paragraph that gave me pause because it's true. The most obvious example I can give is book blogging itself. Just how much do you think the online bookish environment has impacted our book collections, the time we spend reading and talking about books? I mean it completely turned my life upside down when I started..which, I mean it tied in really well to what I was doing professionally at the time, but even though I've always been bookish, I was never THAT bookish. I feel like the last year or so has been my true self trying to recover or restore a natural balance to things. And of course there's the way I obsessively check email, Twitter, tumblr. A habit I really want to break.

There's some interesting stuff about the rewiring of the brain I'd like to maybe talk about later, but the other part that stood out to me as interesting was this:

This evaporation of the genuine self also occurred among the high-school- and college-age kids she interviewed. They were struggling with digital identities at an age when actual identity is in flux. “What I learned in high school,” a kid named Stan told Turkle, “was profiles, profiles, profiles; how to make a me.” It’s a nerve-racking learning curve, a life lived entirely in public with the webcam on, every mistake recorded and shared, mocked until something more mockable comes along. “How long do I have to do this?” another teen sighed, as he prepared to reply to 100 new messages on his phone.

I remember how exhausted social media used to make me feel back before I really engaged in it. The idea of Twitter was tiring as was the idea of constantly putting myself online. I don't know exactly how it changed, but I kind of wish I could go back to that. The thing is that I can't actually imagine life without any of these things now, they are so much a part of my daily routine. And obviously I have many friends I know primarily through online means now that I don't want to lose!

I don't really have an answer about what I'm going to do right now...but this article and these studies really resonated this time. How do you handle your internet time and the interference of social media in your life? Do you find that it affects your moods? Do you feel happier when you disengage? Do you think we take refuge online when we're depressed or do you think it contributes to our depression? Thoughts?


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