‪Old Man Young Rants: How I’m Letting the Internet Ruin My Life

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In My head

I have so many ideas floating around in my head it’s not even funny.  Really.  I have some good ideas every now and then.  Moments of inspiration.  For the past few weeks, though, they feel kind of disconnected.

I’ll get a creative flash usually when I’m getting ready to go to work, or when I’m running late for work, or when I’m in the car, or sitting at my desk at work.  Inconvenient times, is what I’m saying.

Sometimes I’ll exercise discipline and take notes or write out a few ideas to get the ball rolling.  Something that will act as a catalyst later.

It’s been too long since I’ve worked on music or completed anything despite the frequent stutter starts and the passion to create something.  I’m going to count the strength training as a creative outlet.  Definitely building something.

The Digital Hammer

This isn’t about good/bad.  It’s about intent vs. action.  Yes, I’m here to bash social networks.  Or the effect they have — the effect I have trouble not letting them have — on my life.

It’s like this.

Like a hammer, the internet is a tool.  A resource, really.  It’s neutral.  Well, it’s also awesome in many ways but you know.  You can use it to reach out and connect, in theory, or you can use it to throw away chunks of your life.

If the internet were a hammer, I think we, as a society, have been using it to bash ourselves in the head.

Dinosaur

I know.  I guess I’m one of those people that just doesn’t get it.  Or more accurately, one of those people that resists the social pull of technology.  I’ve never been a person to identify with groups.  To feel comfortable in a crowd.  I’m naturally wary or stubborn or self-righteous.  However you want to spin it.

I resisted cell phones for the longest time.  Until some plans fell through because I was relying on someone else’s cell phone.  And you know.  Emergencies.  People used to tell me to get over it.  They were actually saying “get over yourself”.

But look at the way cell phones and smart phones have power over us.  Look at other drivers when you’re on the roads.  They’re talking, texting, FacePlacing and MyBooking and who knows what else while they’re driving.  Meetings at work where nearly everyone puts their phone on the table — buzzing or ringing every few minutes — and they take every call that comes in.  Just because.

Look at people in restaurants and out in public.  So many of them on the phone or online while their companions either use it as an excuse to pull out their own phones or attempt to look nonplussed.

At the risk of offending, I can’t stand hanging out with people who are constantly taking phone calls and texting instead of being present.  It’s a near-constant bombardment of exclusionary activity and, frankly, I’d rather just be alone and exploring and gallivanting rather than with someone whose attention is elsewhere and whose attention span is on par with that of a manic fruit fly.  Seriously.  If you’re one of those people — an unrepentant smart/phone junkie who thinks that I have issues because I’m annoyed by constant interruptions and waning, divided attention — please feel free to stay away from me.

I’ve noticed that some people don’t bother to excuse themselves any more.  I mean, like a, “Oh, excuse me.  I have to take this.”

It’s just so natural for them to slip off into the ether.  It’s crazy how vapid we’ve collectively become.  I wrote a thinly veiled piece of a short story about it a while back.  On the theme of not being present, I wondered what it would be like if we could use our smart gadgets to teleport as easily as we make a phone call or text.

https://garyarthuryoung.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/fiction-fireflight/

Back to Me

It’s the little red circle that gets me.  It’s the ding and the ping.  It’s why people say that they prefer to read on a Kindle (if not a book) as opposed to a smart phone or tablet.

Like I said above, I have a lot of ideas swimming in my head.  And I’ve bought and downloaded some great apps so that I can capture ideas and create on the road and on the fly.

I can write a blog from just about anywhere.  I’ve got various ways to record audio, to create lead sheets, to create beats or chord progressions.  Heck, I’ve got a 4 track recording app on my phone.  I’ve got Dragon Dictation for times when a story or writing idea comes to mind.  I could tap a button, and my devices will transcribe as I talk.  A portable bluetooth keyboard.  Apps to sketch, draw and color plus a tablet-friendly stylus.

And yet I find it difficult to focus long enough to get anything done.  I get in that stinkin’ technology loop.  A ping here, a ding there, a red notification icon and then it’s off into cyberspace, despite myself.

The strange thing is, I won’t even realize it until afterwards.  Or during.  Then I realize that I just spent half an hour or hour accomplishing nothing, having gained a chuckle or two and very little information that’s relevant to anything.

I’m not even a big media consumer.  I mean, I don’t watch YouTube videos incessantly.  Or online TV.  I don’t get into all the memes and online culture.  I don’t play games online or do any of that alternate reality business.  But I still manage to get caught in that loop.  It’s come to a head.

Management

I was so inspired to work on music tonight.  I did just put down the guitar after plucking at some chords for a little while.  That felt good even though I really meant to make some progress on some ideas and maybe even do some recording.

I started with Scrabble and then Facebook and then the tech news, the news, then Words with Friends and then DailyBurn and *ping* then back to blah blah blah.  You get the point.

Then I said to myself out loud, “Damn it!  I’m doing it again!”

That’s when I picked up a guitar and ignored any notifications.

I removed the Twitter app from the iPhone.  Nothing wrong with it.  People post … interesting … things.  I suppose.  Twitter is definitely a movement I don’t quite get.  But it’s just another constant stream of information that can all too easily border on irrelevance.

The Unwritten Facebook Post

I once said that I should post as my status the fact that Facebook and Twitter feeds are a collection of all your acquaintances brain farts.

It can be entertaining.  It’s like a “best of” reel of everyone’s goings on.  But it’s not particularly edifying, is it.

And I enjoy every now and then checking in with friends that I miss and would like to spend more time with.   It’s amazing that I can reach out to friends in California or Europe and vice versa with little to no effort.  There’s definitely an upside to all of this.

I like posting things and like everyone else I love getting likes and comments.  What I do NOT like is the artificial compulsion to be/feel connected.

Haha!  “Love getting likes”.

I like seeing what people are up to.  And then I get fed up.  Not with any individual.  I mean, well there are certain types of posts that are irksome.  You know the ones I’m talking about or you have your own list of pet peeves about it.  I definitely filter out the streams from people who post negative things or whose posts are usually emotionally draining.

The Power of Social Media

Is usually impotent.  There’s just too much going on.  If you’re a creative type especially you know what I mean.  Invitations and calls to action often seem to fall on deaf ears.

My theory is that that the diffusion of responsibility is too great.

You absolutely, positively can NOT rely on a social networking site to move people to action.  Not solely, I mean.  It’s a good start and a good tool but it usually won’t get you far unless you’re already “connected” somehow.  Or unless you have a powerful media entity promoting you.

You have to reach out and make personal connections.  There’s no way around doing the work it takes to connect to another person.

See, that’s the thing about social media and networking.  Popularity and effectiveness have very little to do with the quality of information or the merits of one’s cause.  It has to do with the quantity of consumers.  There was a recent experiment with indy music and the researchers found that the songs and artists that soared in popularity — the one’s that became hits or went viral — had very little to do with the song or artist.  It was more about the social tipping point.  Group dynamics.  Like a school of fish or flocking birds.

Popularity bred popularity.  Then someone in the mainstream media talks about it.  And then it gains more visibility.  Then it’s listed in a “most popular” blurb.  Then more people click on it.  And so on.  And bam!  Viral.  A hit.  A very temporary star is born.

Being good at something helps.  But it may not be the most important factor in being successful, if that success requires the participation of or consumption by a lot of people.

So What

What so what?  I’m ranting, more or less.

But yeh.  So what to do.  I was thinking of removing the Facebook app from the iPhone.  So when I want to log in and see what’s going on (or not going on) I’ll have to do it with intent, not just mindlessly.

There are things I want to accomplish this year and I’ve spent too much of it distracted.  For example:

  •  There’s the fitness thing; the neverending story/journey.  (More about that in an upcoming entry.)
  •  I want to wrap one or two more tunes and then finally get “Anteros” on to a CD and maybe even on iTunes just for the cool factor.  In effect, I want to ship it.  Far, far from perfect but hell.  It’s been long enough.
  •  I want to clean up, edit and finish “O-World” and another short novel I’ve been working on.  Been dipping into both of those for years now.  I want to get those done and then get them printed via Lulu.com or something like it.
  • I want to interview some of my relatives.

I bet you’ve got a lot of projects on your plate, too.  If you’re like me you wonder where the time has gone.  I wake up in the morning and spend 20 to 30 minutes online.  I could and should be in the fitness room getting a quick interval run in, or picking out one of those early morning music or writing ideas.  I should be preparing meals and protein shakes.  Stretching.  Cleaning up this apartment.

It seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day.  I mean, hell, we’re more than half way through 2011.

You know what I mean?  But here’s the thing.  This isn’t all about complaining.  I’m excited by the prospect of using my time more mindfully.  In phases, of course.

I want to make things.

I want to be a source and not a sink.

A creator more than a consumer.

I want to edify and uplift the people I know and the people I meet, however briefly.  You know?

I want to accomplish something.

I feel like I just woke up.   It’s time to separate the chaff from the wheat.

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2 comments

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  1. bbebop

    “Twitter is [a] … constant stream”

    it is a river. you take a little from time-to-time. i generally check twitter when i want/need to know what’s. happening. right. now. (notifications off, of course) that now works out to two or three times a week.

    • garyarthuryoung

      Definitely. I’m just figuring out how to do that without an obsessive or addictive compulsion.

      There will be much deactivation of notifications in my immediate future.

      Thanks, BB.

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