Musings from an optimistic pessimist realist with Idealistic Fantasies intended to honor logic, sanity, truth, spirit, competence, and uncommon sense.
Truth Against the World
Monday, August 22, 2011
A Revolutionary Act
I've been thinking about lessening my psychological dependence on the internet lately. Most of my time online is spent reading news on topics of interest. That mostly includes news that relates to the collapse of industrial civilization, the global economy, environmental destruction, and peak oil. A good percentage of that information comes to me by way of a handful of blogs that I follow. I also spend a good bit of my time on the kunstlercast.com forum of which I've been a member for about two years now. I listen to a lot of Pandora and listen to a few podcasts. All of those things I see as benefiting my life because they allow me to receive news about my world that is not bought and paid for by the Corporatocracy. Pandora allows me to hear music that I would hear no other way and with no advertisement and that privilege costs me about 40 dollars per year. Without the internet I would probably not know the specific truths about the world that I know. I have come to realize that my problem with the internet is social media, namely FaceBook (because it's the only true "social media" that I use on the internet). So what is my problem with FaceBook?
Mostly it's that I think social media cheapens life rather than enriches it. It allows for people who would not otherwise keep up with your life to keep up with your life, but in a cheap way. It has cheapened the word "friend." It has usurped that word and has changed it's meaning to something more akin to a term that doesn't get used much anymore, acquaintance. An acquaintance is somebody whom you know due to some social function that you may have from time to time. It's not somebody with whom you are actively involved. A friend is somebody with whom you are genuinely involved. A friend is somebody with whom you will inconvenience yourself for without having to think about it. A friend is somebody with whom you will go out of your way for and be willing to spend vast amounts of time with, and in person, because you want to. A friend is somebody whom you genuinely care about. A FB friend can be that, but mostly your "friends" on FB do not adhere to any of the above qualities.
The question is, if somebody does meet all of those criteria for you, than why is FB needed? Because it makes it easier for your real friends to keep up with your life? If somebody is so busy that they have no time for you, than are they really your friend? I can hear the arguments now. What about friends who live hundreds or thousands of miles away? Are we too busy to talk to each other on the phone? Are we too busy to email each other? Are we too busy to drop by and say hello every once in a while? The answer to all of those questions is a most certain yes and that is part of my point. FB enables us to drift apart in reality and yet stay abreast of each other's lives. You may spend an hour on FB keeping up with 100 friends everyday. That would be just over 30 seconds per friend. So you can spend more time with some and less with others. Yet you are mostly spending time with an echo of that person's life. We all whisper into the cloud and what's received by everybody else is just an echo of an echo. What kind of value does this have? How much time do you spend on FB and Twitter?
I personally spend, on average, 15 minutes a day. Occasionally I won't even get on. I have around 100 "friends" on FB. Around a quarter of that are relatives. I even have friends on FB whom I have never met in real life, and probably never will meet. What is the point of that? If we are to live lives that are that abstract and isolated from each other's physical presence that it's not even required to meet one time in the flesh, then what is the point? Is physical presence no longer required to be somebodies "friend?" It's true, physical presence is not required, and in what way is that increasing our humanity? What is the value in knowing somebody because you have been in their physical presence? How can you have real feelings about somebody with whom you will never meet? You are just in relations with their digital avatar, and they yours. What is the logical conclusion for all of this?
Today I found myself at a crossroads pertaining to these very questions. My wife's blackberries track ball quit working today, and my blackberry has never worked properly. These blackberries represent the first smart phones either of us have ever owned, and we got them two years ago. Our contract with sprint was up and we could go get new phones without paying anything (with rebates that is) and so we decided to go and get new phones. With my EMS discount our total bill is $130 per month for unlimited data, which isn't bad in comparison to some plans. If you add our hard line (which my wife needs for her business) and household internet that brings our total communication technology bill up to $230 a month, over half of which is due to internet for the house and phones. We found a new 4G phone that's one of the latest and greatest pieces of electronic gizmory for $100 each. It's a $600 dollar phone. That's a good deal in anybodies book. Of course you had to agree to another two years for that deal. We decided to go with it and at the last minute, just before it was time to sign the doted line, the salesman says "you know about the new 10 dollar data fee per phone right?" No, I hadn't heard about that...due tell. Turns out that the internet's getting used more frequently (nooo, can't be) and so they have to build more towers to accommodate the demands on the system. That's how Capitalism works. Infrastructure costs gets passed down to the consumer. I understand that.
The salesman didn't have to tell me that. He was just being nice thinking that "surely 20 more dollars a month isn't going to sway them." I put a stop to the proceedings and told him that I needed to discuss this with my wife first. It just didn't feel right to me. I've been thinking about going in the opposite direction. Less communication technology and internet dependence, not more. I especially don't want to pay for more smart phone distraction. We decided to go with non-smart phones, whatever they are called now....dinosaurs? My plan is going to be $70 dollars less per month now. That's a weeks worth of groceries for my modest family of three (and that's organic produce).
It feels to me like a revolutionary act. Society is normalizing the functions of smart phones. What started as just a phone has become a game of how much distractions can we stuff into one electronic device. Life is becoming so shitty and depressing that we need electronic refuge to lesson the importance of our physical world. We need distraction from how dysfunctional our world has become. Inside that magical device is the answer to all of our problems. Or so it would seem. What it really is is something to capture our attention while we allow our beautiful human world to rot away. We aren't angry about all of the injustices because we are too distracted by techno wizardry to notice.
Ironically these devices are now helping our younger discontented generations to organize themselves into little isolated agents of destruction. They know that their futures have been sold down the river of our own lack of insight and concern for the future. They know that they have no place in this consumer economy. A world where the winners get to buy the latest and greatest at prices that would feed entire villages for a month and even years in some cases. A world that creates losers who place their hopes in a little piece of shiny and flashy plastic. Where they can plug their ears into the soundtrack of their own hopeless life and watch youtube and youporn in an attempt to find something worth caring about. Having not been able to find it they have decided to start rioting, and stealing their own little piece of overpriced designer what-have-you's. They are becoming little organized capitalists doing what the tenets of capitalism has taught them to do, smash and grab economics. They have learned this by watching their idols on the idiot box. You know the idols that make it on shows like American Idol, America's Got Talent, America Can Dance, America is a Delusion, and Jersey Shore. How is what the flash mobs and rioters in England been doing any different from what the CEO's of our corporations do on a daily basis? Exploitation is exploitation no matter what side of the law it's on. The CEO's steal the lives of third world peasants and the natural resources of the commons from lands that are not their own to make the crap that we buy. The rioters are just stealing a few minutes of those same peasants existence and a small piece of the commons for their plundered loot.
It's not my objective to argue the merits of socialism versus capitalism in this particular blog entry. The main idea is that I believe we have gone too far with communication technology. We have crossed the line between enriching and diminishing human life. I don't know at what point that line is located, but I know that FB is on the diminishing side of it. It's my intention to continue the momentum of the day. My next act is to regain some of my humanity. As simple and superficial as it may sound, I'm going to delete my FB page. If you say that this is not a revolutionary and truly meaningful and human act, than why not delete your FaceBook page?