Have you watched The Social Dilemma or The Big Hack on Netflix? I did, freaked out like the rational nutjob I am and deleted instagram, snapchat, facebook, twitter. Then, I decided to get on this form of social media and write about it. It’s like swapping addictions, but hey – you don’t judge me, I won’t judge you. Normally, at this time of day I’m looking at memes and sending them to people while feeling like shit for wasting my life away, but enjoying it and persisting. Alas, life is a jumbo shrimp.
Inevitably, the constant fear mongering, propaganda, fighting, fake/inauthentic babble, negativity, whatever just eats into the psyche. Simultaneously, it feeds this bizarrely strong need for acceptance (AKA the ego). It’s as if my high school life has been digitized. Here’s the weirdo in a corner of the internet babbling. Then, I feel weird, and sad, and alone whilst surrounded by all my digital “friends”.
Lately, it feels like my eyes are swimming in a cesspool as opposed to high school. Everybody is arguing about everything, and there I am offering memes in trying times. It doesn’t matter what I do, since I’m on the very thing that has so many people polarized and divided. Just part of the problem, complaining about the problem, while continuing to be problemed. I’m less connected with people, my relationships have changed, and I don’t talk to people nearly as frequently as I did due to the illusion of connection from FB. Yet, I kept going back like an addict Pavlov’s dog for a digital notification bell.
It’s easy for me to blame social media, but those damned concepts of choice and free will. I may be addicted to it, but the first step to anything is admitting the problem and taking responsibility for it, not blaming the problem.
Imagine how many sperm are contained in an average ejaculate. If you aren’t the type to ponder sperm counts on Monday mornings, allow me to google for you. There are between 40 – 300 million sperm. In that teaspoon of baby batter, each of us had a 1 in 40-300 million chance of being born, making conception and birth akin to winning a sperm lottery. It’s the biggest payload (literally and metaphorically) any of us have. If every second of our existence are sperm lottery winnings, what are we spending it on? Lately, I’ve spent it feeling angry, powerless, hopeless, and lost on social media. There’s time for anything and everything, and it all has merit. But what happens when it’s too much?
…As an aside, how should I feel when I constantly get penis pillow advertisements on Facebook? What is the judgement of me or the algorithms?
Do I control it, or does it control me? (facebook, not penis pillows) That’s the line of addiction. Lately, the answer is that I feel controlled. My mood can shift, I feel the cravings for social media as much as I feel a craving for a cig.
Focus and attention are everything. What anyone “Pays” attention to is the experience purchased. If I pay attention to Facebook, allow my thumbs to scroll while my eyes glaze over and I tune out of my real life, I’m buying a warped world view, testicle hugging underwear for my husband, and a digital nonsense life. Garbage in, garbage out as they say in programming. I have felt depression/anxiety spike, as this all consuming sense of purposelessness, powerlessness, aimlessness, hopelessness pervaded my psyche.
Someone is profiting off these mental/emotional states (and impulse buys) like I’m making American Spirit rich off my lungs. Algorithms are coded nicotine. The algorithms use psychological manipulation like a slot machine – “Intermittent Reward”. It’s actually also a strategy narcissists use to keep people entangled with them. It’s this idea that at some point, you’re going to get that good feeling, and if you keep scrolling/playing/whatever, you’ll get your fix. It is actually the most addictive method. When I saw it all outlined in the documentary, it clicked, and I feel angry and dumb – like I’ve wasted a lot on not much – like a lab rat pushing buttons for intermittent dopamine cheese.
We consistently donate time, attention, and focus to companies that net billions of dollars from it. These are the things no one gets back, the most valuable assets for: addiction? advertising? arguing? alliteration? memes? What is life if not the sum total of time, attention, and focus? Then bring in money and economics. Opportunity cost – what are you losing by choosing x over y? In other words, what could be done with time – what worth (not always monetary) could be generated – by not engaging in these activities?
I am bartering money, health, etc. for the experience of smoking. What is the opportunity cost, and is it worth it? How can I persist in an activity I can say I hate and pay for the pleasure of doing so? Because I’m addicted and I enjoy the addiction. I can’t be all high and mighty, I’m hooked because I like it. I clearly like it more than I hate it, or I would chose to stop. There was a line in the movie – only two industries refer to their clients as users – the drug industry and the tech industry. I feel less like a user and more like an addict.
What is the real opportunity cost of any addiction? It’s life, right? Those sperm lottery winnings?
Everything can be a tool or a weapon. Lately, it’s felt more like a weapon. How much of my day is determined by an algorithm…how much is me? How much is manipulation to keep me in “rabbit holes”? The fact that I can even wonder is too much for comfort.
There has to be middle ground, middle path, middle way. Usage of social media is driving extremes. If one side or perspective is constantly reiterated by content, algorithms pumping stuff that asserts a world view, of course it’s difficult to see other perspectives and world views. Curated newsfeed becomes an echo chamber.
The Buddha had a lot of insight into human psychology before it was a thing. He always talked about how extremes, attachment, expectation (all synonyms for addiction) were all forms of suffering. Now, we’re in an age of digital suffering/digital addiction. He said the middle way was the path to freedom and I definitely feel imprisoned by extreme, polarized behavior. Behavior driven by algorithms, that serve to influence behavior, nothing else. Digital nicotine.
Anything that’s free means the “user” is the product. The user trades life, attention, focus for … what, exactly? Excuses to not ___? Trading contentment, peace of mind, etc. for ___? Meditating, writing, jumping jacks, pooping with two free hands or whatever instead of these things…the opportunity cost becomes sickening, really. Whatever the opportunity cost is: the value of human time/attention/focus/data in the billions in advertising dollars. In The Big Hack – Britany Kaiser said that our data was now more valuable than oil.
What if it was reversed? What does that mean for time, attention, and focus? What does it mean for worth and lottery winnings?
I don’t know. I’m not an expert, obviously, but what do you think? Have you watched either of these movies?? Did it change anything for you if it did?
Here’s a song: