I had set aside Sunday to do a little writing. Late Saturday night I decided I would stay away from all screens for the entire day, meaning my cell phone and computers. So—no email, no texts, no Facebook messages or comments, and basically no phone calls either. (I do have a landline. I turned the ringer off but I decided that if I saw the message light blinking, I would give myself permission to listen to the message. But if someone were to call my cell phone, well, I just wouldn’t know, because I was keeping that device muted, in a drawer.)
I was stunned how much anxiety all this “disconnection” gave rise to at the beginning of the day. I felt like a walking computer whose USB ports were suddenly all unplugged. I felt disoriented, and much more lonely than I would have rationally expected to feel.
I realized just how profoundly the state of being electronically “plugged in” each day had become my primary addiction, and how it narcotizes me every day. And yet, this state of “being connected” has kept me from truly connecting to what’s really going on inside me.
Everything about the Internet (and our stupid smart phones)—with Facebook being undisputed world champion example—is geared to keep us hooked, continually engaged, grasping for that next little dopamine squirt.
I noticed it recently on chess.com (one of my frequent escapes). The software on that site generates a little comment after each speed chess game, such as: “A wild game, and you came out on top.” Or: “You let that one slip through your fingers.” etc. Of course I know it’s a computer talking at me, but it still sparks a little circuit in my brain chemistry, making it more likely that I’ll click again the button to start a new game with some other abjectly addicted opponent somewhere in the world (with whom I’m randomly matched on the basis of chess skill rating).
Why is the World Wide Web so sinister? Why does it seek to colonize our minds and control us? I’ll state the obvious. I think it’s all about money. The people behind the websites, whether it’s Facebook or chess.com or okcupid, are doing what they have to do (or think they have to do) to stay alive. They feed off the vital energy of our souls because they don’t know any better. They are the spiders of the Web, just doing what spiders do, and the rest of us are flies, losing hours each day to their silky seductive poisons.
Unplug with me. Let’s sit down and talk instead, about things that matter, and the larger context of our lives.