January 21, 2011

I Need You. You See. To See Me

I spend a lot of time online. Anyone reading this post who knows me, and is on the receiving end of my firehose of content is probably shaking his or her head and saying no shit Jabiz! This is a confession of sorts, and attempt to curate what I  have been thinking. I have been thinking  a lot about my time, my needs, my connections, my networks, my friends, and so on ad infinitum. Let’s just say that I have been thinking. A lot.

I have never in my life been more “connected” than right now. I could riddle this post with a barrage of hyperlinks denoting the many pies into which my fingers are currently poked. I could send you, dear reader, on a scavenger hunt of content that I have created or am in the process of creating. Links to  posts, tweets, applications exalting the wonder of technology and connection, but as I sit here on my sofa with the nasally seductive voice of Colin Meloy crooning me into a state of comfortable obscurity, I'm left with one question- why do I feel so empty and alone? Isn't this global connectivity supposed to alleviate my solitude? Shouldn't my sharing bring me closer to you?

Is all of this narrating, curating, and sharing of my ideas, my mind, and my identity worthwhile? Is it making me happy? Is it having any effect on anything or anyone? This is not a post fishing for encouragement. Trust me I am okay in that department. I just wanted to breath some life into my doubts and see if they will swim.

There isn’t a single impetus for this sudden bout with languor; my life has always been a roller coaster of euphoria and ennui, and after a pretty steady run this train is now coasting through a low dark tunnel right now and demanding some attention. Fear not, I am used to this pendualm and am becomeing adept and dealing with it. Just watch, I bet I will be elated by the end of this post.

I cannot ignore the effects however of two documents that came into my life today. The first was this extraordinary article called, Five Emotions Invented By The Internet. This dark, I think satirical, but incredibly well-written treatise on Internet addiction jarred my thinking by holding a mirror up to some of my most obvious but best concealed anxieties about the effects of the digital age on my psyche. To read the post is to think that someone gathered my most embarrassing pettiness and pathetic need for connection and regurgitated it in perfect form for all to see. I should be thrilled to know that I am not alone in my pathetic isolation, but somehow realizing that others behave this way and that perhaps we are communally dealing with this issue of loneliness, because what other word could there be for it, saddened me even more.

Before I continue let me quote at length:
The state of being ‘installed’ at a computer or laptop for an extended period of time without purpose, characterized by a blurry, formless anxiety undercut with something hard like desperation. During this time the individual will have several windows open, generally several browser ‘tabs,’ a Microsoft Word document in some state of incompletion, the individual’s own Facebook page as well as that of another randomly-selected individual who may or may not be on the ‘friends’ list, 2-5 Gchat conversations that are no longer immediately active, possibly iTunes and a ‘client’ for Twitter. The individual will switch between the open applications/tabs in a fashion that appears organized but is functionally aimless, will return to reading some kind of ‘blog post’ in one browser tab and become distracted at the third paragraph for the third time before switching to the Gmail inbox and refreshing it again.

The behavior equates to mindlessly refreshing and ‘lozenging’ the same sources of information repeatedly. While performing this behavior the individual feels a sense of numb depersonalization, being calmly and pragmatically aware that they have no identifiable need to be at the computer nor are they gleaning any practical use from it at that moment, and the individual may feel vaguely uncomfortable or ashamed about this awareness in concert with the fact that they continue to perform the idle ‘refreshing’ behavior. They may feel increasingly anxious and needful, similar to the sensation of having an itch that needs scratching or a thirst that needs quenching, all while feeling as though they are calm or slightly bored.

I sadly now admit that I end nearly every night in this state. Sure I can justify my behavior by highlighting the mountains of meaningful content I create, but inevitably before I go to bed every night I install myself one last time to see what is shakin’ out there. I need you. You see. To see me. And I don't want that feeling anymore. I feel terrible about it every night, and after reading the article above,  I feel worse. I am a grown adult, so I have some control over this feeling of scouring an empty web looking for nourishment, but what of our students?

I am making a vow, that after my “work” online is finished, I will sign out and do something else. This could be time I could be reading or mediating. I could play some guitar, draw, perhaps bake a cake, anything but clicking through tabs like a hypnotized autistic chimp looking for...?  Don’t get me wrong I am not bothered by the amount of time I spend on the computer when I am writing blog posts, working on my book, listening to music, photography, or even engaged in valuable networking on Twitter and other online spaces. I enjoy sifting through my RSS and commenting on blogs etc…it is that last thirty minutes or so before I go to bed when all is said and done and I am still installed.

I am rambling now, but once again my textual confession has helped me cleanse. I will write more about the second reason I have been flying at half-mast today in subsequent posts. (Hint great new book.)

In an effort to end on a positive note, let me share this little gem as well:
The internet is at least partly us; we write it as well as read it, perform for it as well as watch it, create it as well as consume it. Watching TV is a solitary activity that feels like a communal one, while the Internet is a communal experience masquerading as solitude.
Maybe everything I said is wrong. Who knows? All I know is that issues of solitude, community connections, and identity are all confusing in the digital age.  We are all figuring it out together. I know that personally I must be aware of who I am and how I deal with my own reality and then, and only then can I deal with how it orbits around yours.

What do you think? How do you deal with you Internet Emotional issues? When is it all too much? I know balance is the key, but that cannot be the only answer to our every problem, if it were you think we would have solved our neuroses years ago.

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