We keep going back to this trough of slop. This thing which stirs our emotions and whips us into a frenzy. A place filled with darkness and hate and anxiety. Leaving us zapped, void of hope and utterly confused how to proceed next.
The trough is our online communities and the slop are the feeds. Sometimes, when the few who do so click on the shared links read the article, the articles themselves are the pile of slop.
Everything is framed as a fight. An end must come to something which has been around for what seems like forever. ‘They’ are after you and ‘you’ have something you must do about this horrific thing the journalist has uncovered and tilted heavily towards their viewpoint.
It must be the news event itself or the issue being covered in the long read article we were not as aware of which is stirring our drive to be pissed off at something.
Or is it the medium itself we should start to raise our blood pressure over, the trough. In a sort of 80/20 fashion, the conduit itself is doing 80 percent of the job in hijacking our focus and zeroing it on the most potent emotions we have whipping a person into a frenzy….fear and anger.
I need to drop the ‘we’ for a moment and talk about me.
My mind can’t sit still. And maybe that’s a pre-existing condition. But it is a blessed condition when harnessed. I make my best connections in a state of stillness, focus, deep work as Cal Newport would say. Because there is a ton going on inside my head.
This place of stillness is a place void of being bombarded every five minutes with instant messages. A place where I am not continually pulling down on the refresh slot machine designed social media app.
Why do I recall a time over a decade ago of stillness, focus, and the capability of taking the millions of thoughts I have and condense them into grad school level papers and wild imaginative screenplays? This can’t be a right of passage into adulthood. Why am I so distracted by things which don’t matter as much and are hardly vetted as good sources of information to begin with?
And why is rage and fear and anxiety rising more and more in me?
And in more of us all as it keeps turning out?
Let me close my 35 open chat messages and 8 apps telling me to read something right now for a second and introduce you more to Cal Newport and company.
In Cal Newport’s introduction of his book Digital Minimalism, he writes:
“In addition, as demonstrated during the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, online discussion seems to accelerate people’s shift toward emotionally charged and draining extremes. The techno-philosopher Jaron Lanier convincingly argues that the primacy of anger and outrage online is, in some sense, an unavoidable feature of the medium: In an open marketplace for attention, darker emotions attract more eyeballs than positive and constructive thoughts. For heavy internet users, repeated interaction with this darkness can become a source of draining negativity – a steep price that many don’t even realize they’re paying to support their compulsive connectivity.” – Page XII (emphasis added)
I found this to be starkly revealing. As the book would go on, we simply don’t have a philosophy of handling highly addictive mediums of technology which are leveraging the darker side of our nature.
Not convinced of that last part yet? Here is that technology philosopher and early architect of several things in the web Jaron Lainer elaborating more in his own words:
““We can addict you by squirting out bits of positive and negative emotions for you over time…If you do what we want, we give you some positive feedback. If you don’t do what we want, we make you feel bad,” Lanier said.
“It just happens that negative emotions, like fear and paranoia are easier to bring up, they are cheaper than the positive ones, so we’ve ended up making the whole society a little dark and paranoid,” he added.”
I feel I’ve laid enough groundwork for the moment for you to understand the medium of digital sharing is pulling on our negative and fearful driven emotions. But just how dark is this all?
John Mark Comer in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry doesn’t mince words when describing what is deeply wrong with us all of a sudden over the past couple decades.
Mass internet consumption has hijacked our attention by means of dark negative emotions. Jaron Lainer said so, an architect of the early web community.
What our attention is focused on greatly affects us. John Mark Comer speaks about the darker force behind it all:
“Many have noted that the modern world is a virtual conspiracy against the interior life. It’s hard not to see a darker force behind all this than simple capitalism. When we uncritically hurry our way through our digital terrain, we make the devil’s job relatively easy. Regardless of our income levels, attention is our scarcest resource. Jesus wisely said our hearts will follow behind our treasures.” P 53-54
What you give your attention to is the person you become. Hence, with the medium of frantic internet tweets and headlines and social media blasts about terrible things you have to do something about or else, we keep focusing on the darker side of humanity. Because it’s designed and co-opted to do so.
Human psychology has been hacked and we are feeling it.
Which is why I am attempting to return to eremos. The greek word for desert, solitary place, lonely place, quite place, wilderness, as John Mark Comer helped define for us.
Ryan Holiday’s latest stoic centric book is called Stillness Is The Key and centers on trying to get our mind spirit and bodies into the most precious state of being: stillness.
I want to get there not because it is some mythical euphoric place. Nor is it a place of hermit like avoidance.
It’s a place I must return to as we are being dragged under by the rising tide of a great noise tuned to fear. It’s set at a frequency kicking anxiety up notches we are collectively sensing.
I hope you come along to the eremos. It is challenging because there is much we are up against. But it is the place where I think we’ll actually hear each other all over again. Where we will hear what matters most all over again. Where our anxiety won’t be. Where all which loves us so much will be there waiting.
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