Thursday, July 11, 2013

At Your Mercy

By JccKeith

Due to unforeseen circumstances I have been on hiatus from living in the real world.  Alright, that sounds a little bizarre so let me specify what I mean.  Here recently, the last couple of weeks, I have been taking a break from spending my nights on the internet.  Yes I am calling the internet the real world because it is where I get all of my information about what’s going on in the real world.   It is how I keep track of what everyone is up to in their lives.  If it weren’t for the internet, I wouldn’t know anything about what terrible things are going on all around me and in distant parts of the world.  I would have no idea what people I never see or have never met are doing.  It is my connection to the real world.

Of course the term real world does not mean what it used to mean.  Anymore, the real world is what is presented to me through other sources such as the internet, particularly with social media.  The real world consists of two things – people living fantastic lives which they illustrate with brilliantly worded Facebook posts and carefully chosen pictures and those people who have terrible things happen to them which I read about on various news related sources.  Either way, both are carefully constructed to present a certain image, both are sensationalized. 

The real world is not real at all – but how am I supposed to know the difference between what I see online and what is really happening?  I don’t have the phone numbers or addresses of all the people I know on Facebook in other cities, other states and other countries.  I can’t call them up and chat about what is really going on in their lives.  I can’t drop in for a visit or even get together with them every now and again.  I have to rely entirely on the information they give me through social media.

What about all those terrible news reports?  People and pets being abused, grave injustices, cruel inhumane activities of groups, misuse of medicine, drugs, wars and overall destruction are rampant.  Now granted these things do happen and there are some mighty horrendous things going on every second of every day but the unfortunate thing is, there is no way to know what is really going on.  News reports often give inaccurate details or add details or even overlook them on purpose.  News reports are designed to grab attention not necessarily report the truth.  And one glaringly obvious fact about the news is it only reports a tiny fraction of what goes on in the world.  It for the most part completely ignores any good things that happen, any sign that humanity is not going down the toilet.  But what am I to do?  I can research the internet till my fingers bleed from all the typing but I will never, unless I am there, know or truly understand what is happening.

In addition to this vast difference between reality and the ‘real world’ there is the concept of society’s addiction.  The addiction is to the internet, to social media sites in particular.  Too many people are basing their thinking, their perception of reality, on what they read online on these social media sites.  This is causing great unhappiness and depression in many due to their comparing their own lives with what they see as other’s lives on places like Facebook and Twitter.  And then there are the people who have become so addicted to the image they present on social media sites that they have started to believe their own lies. 

This article I read about Facebook addiction was more focused on how this addiction was changing our very brains.  It was complicated, something about how constant need for more and more information, faster and faster, leads to shorter attention spans and some other issues.  If you’re interested in that sort of thing and how it relates to dopamine levels, by all means, look it up.  The article goes into great detail and is very compelling and brings up the point that addiction to the internet actually prevents people from expanding their horizons.  The article says that due to internet sites’ use of tracking software to record what you view and then cater your future search results or advertisement exposure to give you what you have shown you want – this keeps you in the same pattern.  If you are constantly given information or links to sites about things you’re already interested in then you are less likely to seek out new things, try new things and read new things because they aren’t presented to you as options.

So do I buy into all of this business about internet addiction?  Do I think Facebook is addicting?  Is it stunting my emotional or mental growth?  Is the internet shaping my perception of the world?  Am I becoming depressed because  I think everyone I know is spectacularly awesome and living fabulously more exciting and successful lives than I am?  Do I think the world or humanity is on the brink of destruction?  Is this why I have made a concerted effort to stay off the internet recently?  Am I finally smartening up and refusing to be at the mercy of the internet and social media?

Well, no.  Actually I just went on vacation to America’s Historic Triangle for the last week and it’s
taken me a few days since I got back to get back in the swing of being back on anything resembling a writing schedule – and by schedule I mean staying up all night writing off and on while I surf social media sites, stay connected and keep up with what’s going on.  To be honest, being on vacation meant being out all day visiting the various sites and being so tired when finally returning to the hotel room that I was too tired to stay up and write anything at all.  And then at the end of my vacation when I moved on to Virginia Beach, when I switched hotels, I was without internet access at all. 

So there you have it.  Vacations rock.  But what about the rest of you?  Any opinions on the internet, on social media sites and their effects?  Are they a good thing or a bad thing?

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