Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Internet Generation

Sitting on my bed at the end of the night or first thing in the morning, I perform a familiar ritual. For one or ten or twenty-five minutes, I cycle between Facebook and Instagram,  Gmail and Twitter,  until I have truly exhausted every form of social media. No matter how tired I am at night, nor how late I am to rise, this frenetic flipping between apps always exists  In fact, I can't seem to put my mind to bed or start the day without it. This cycle also manifests itself when I am waiting for a train or bored at work or having a tiresome conversation or walking the distance from 125th street to 121st street. My eyes lock to the screen as I frantically search for some content that applies to me, that will lift me from my present state. When there is no WiFi  and my 4G coverage conks out leaving me a alone with my thoughts, I panic, fidgeting in my seat and tapping my foot like a pre-teen boy with ADD. Perhaps my only comfort in these times is that seemingly every person who surrounds me suffers from the same addiction. For it is an addiction, this fixation that we have with our smartphones and even more specifically, the internet. These two things serve as our greatest form of procrastination and the largest subconscious manifestation of our fear of being alone. 

In the world today, a premium is placed on instant gratification and constant virtual communication, as we update and message our way to oblivion. Gone are long walks without electronic stimulation and reading books made out of paper takes a distant backseat to streaming TV shows or indulging in the latest Huffpost Entertainment News. We expect to receive things as fast as possible with the least amount of effort required.

 Now please don't get me wrong. I'm not some harbinger of doom preaching a message of electronic abstinence from my pulpit high above. I consider myself an active part of a problem that is completely fixable. Therefore, over a series of blogposts, I'd like to discuss some of the core issues that face our generation, we that have experienced the internet. More importantly though, I'd like to explore how we may positively alter our trajectory.

So where does that itch to pick up our phones come from? That desire to stop working and check our messages or delay our bedtimes by hours simply to watch movie trailers on Youtube? Logically, it seems to stem from two things. The first being a desire to escape our immediate circumstances. When there is a readily available way to avoid the minor stresses and anxieties connected with our work and daily communications, it's difficult not to exercise that option. We are not forced to face difficult realities and tackle workloads when looking at Rihanna's Instagram.

The second cause of our need to constantly utilize our electronic devices is our fear of being alone. The anxiety that stems from a culture obsessed with online connection is inevitable.  However by sending a text message or commenting on a photo, we can feel as though we are linked to something other than ourselves. By extension, we are also able to dull the murmur of thoughts and insecurities that arise when left alone.

One could conversely argue that sometimes the subject matter on our smartphones can be more stressful than our everyday life and more destructive than our regular internal monologue. This is especially true when one considers the feelings of rejection, resentment, anxiety, jealousy and guilt often experienced when browsing other peoples profiles or interacting via messenger.

 Subsequently, I feel as though I exist in a strange daily paradox. I enjoy being alone, and experience a sharp increase in focus, productivity and creativity, coupled with a significant decrease in stress and mental clutter when I am. On the other hand, I've barely been able to stop checking Twitter while writing about this very issue. It's a a perfect example of an all too familiar personal hypocrisy.

Our generation is faced with a societally pervasive addiction to the internet. We exist in a world that seems to only be moving further in the direction of electronic dependance. Every smartphone  commercial boasts greater, more inventive ways to remove ourselves from our immediate surroundings and become more fully immersed in a virtual world. How can we therefore hope to combat the rising tide of short attention spans, lack of basic social skills and cultural procrastination? It seems like a futile fight, but it is one that I am willing to commit to. Over the next few posts I will continue to discuss these issues and document my personal struggles with them. If we can start a dialogue of solutions and set a precedent of positive communication habits, following fast on their heels will be the inception of clear, creative, diligent, and socially conscious minds.

Until next time...

Aidan Sank

*Let it be known that the irony of posting this blog straight onto Facebook is not lost on me.

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