We joined the 21st century, and bought smartphones.
We changed our phone system to a different v.o.i.p. provider.
We replaced our modem, after days of intermittent internet service that drove us crazy.
I started a new feed on Twitter.
Everybody started flocking to Google+.
This was the week it all became Too Much.
I knew it was getting bad by Tuesday afternoon, when I started having visions of getting rid of as much of my stuff as I could, in order to create a nearly bare room in which I saw myself sitting in total silence.
My husband and I went to bed each night and lay there, each with our new phones, learning how they worked. "We've become just like everybody else," he remarked, only somewhat tongue-in-cheek. "Now we'll go to restaurants and not talk to each other, but just play with our phones."
"Maybe you," I said. "Not me!" But my vehemence was only the result of disgust at the seductiveness of the little gem-like computer-phone, and what all of this was doing to my brain.
On the internet, invitations to Google+ have been flying around, and everyone seems to be talking about what it is and how to use it and will it actually be a competitor to Facebook, or will we all just have yet another social networking site to manage?
I asked myself why this was bothering me so much, why did I feel fried, annoyed, even angry? Why did I feel, most of all, like unplugging completely?
Part of it was information overload: the difficulty of solving technical problems, learning a new system, dealing with frustration. That's OK. But once that is over, what do I want?
What I want is to be creative, I said. I want the tools to serve me, not the other way around. I'm getting absolutely nothing significant done, but I'm supposedly "busy" all the time. And it's all driven by a shared anxiety: if we don't keep up, we'll be left behind; if we don't flock over here with the Crowd, we'll lose our audience and no one will talk to us or listen to us anymore. We're not so sure they're listening now...maybe we'd better issue another Tweet or Post or Dent and make sure they're there.
Meanwhile, we're all being manipulated by huge corporations who stand to make enormous profits by understanding, influencing, and controlling our behavior, and then recording what we do and who we are, and selling that information to others and using it to get us to buy things ourselves. Don't people see that? Increasingly, we are becoming pawns not only in the political arena we used to call democracy, but in a worldwide web of profit-making.
I, for one, don't want to participate in that game any more than I have to. And I am going to unplug, to a certain extent, while using the various media in as subversive and creative a way as possible.
I can see perfectly well why I've been writing micro-posts, but there's no need to maintain a new Twitter feed to do that.
The blog is my central focus, and will remain so; I'll continue cross-posting from the blog to Twitter and FB but I'm pulling back from anything new. I opened an account at Google+ because I like its lack of ads and lack of games and clutter, but my attitude is wait-and-see. Maybe it will replace FB as the place for conversation, but I can't maintain a significance presence at both. I know, for sure, that I've reached a point of complexity that is my own limit.
I've decided to cut down dramatically on my interaction on Facebook anyway. FB is useful for keeping in touch with certain people, for sharing news, and for marketing, but can be a tremendous time drain, and the busyness of the interface and constant bombardment of ads, along with all the voices demanding my interest and attention, are part of what's putting me over the edge.
Analog activities suddenly seem very appealing: seeing friends in real time, gardening, cooking, drawing. This week I cut out and sewed a dress, the first I've made in ages.
And I'm going away for a few days, out into the country, with my sketchbook and camera and some pieces of paper; A.S. Byatt's "The Children's Book" (3/4 finished) in paperback, and the complete novels of Virginia Woolf on my phone. You'll be hearing from me, but in brief.
Meanwhile, what do YOU think about all of this?