05.08.2015 08:30 AM

The sad irony is that I posted Josh Whedon’s observation about Twitter on Twitter

To wit:

“The real issue is me. Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it’s there, I gotta check it. When you keep doing something after it stops giving you pleasure, that’s kind of rock bottom for an addict…I just had a little moment of clarity where I’m like, You know what? If I want to get stuff done, I need to not constantly hit this thing for a news item or a joke or some praise, and then be suddenly sad when there’s hate and then hate and then hate.”

I don’t think the issue is Twitter, per se. Twitter, to me, is the global water cooler – and also the new global news service. It is far, far more valuable than Facebook or some other social media platform.

The issue is one all of us observed when we all got our first Blackberries, or our first smartphones: the addictive nature of those little bits of data pinging onto our device. There have been myriad studies about it, suggesting that our tendency to constantly check our devices actually stimulates the release of dopamine in our brains:

“…before long, people were referring to their BlackBerries as CrackBerries, and parents were beginning to worry about the number of hours their kids spent on video games. We now believe that the compulsion to continually check email, stock prices, and sporting scores on smartphones is driven in some cases by dopamine releases that occur in anticipation of receiving good news. Indeed, we have grown so addicted to our smartphones that we now experience “phantom smartphone buzzing,” which tricks our brains into thinking our phone is vibrating when it isn’t.”

I have been in bands with guys who check their devices between songs onstage. I have been in campaign meetings where the device-checking got so bad, the campaign manager had to confiscate people’s devices. And, of course, all of us see people checking their devices when they drive, every single day.

The social media platform isn’t the problem – and nor is the problem the type of device we have. The problem, as Whedon suggests, is us: our brains are wired in such a way that we are addicted to precisely the sort of stimulation our devices provide.

Anyway, I doubt some of you have gotten this far in my little exegesis. I’ve wildly exceeded my 140 character limit!

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16 Comments

  1. Gaspar dela Jour says:

    People are … curious about everything… and are social creatures who crave company and coddling. Twitter is just another electronic umbilical cord that ties us into the “human hive”…. can’t you see it happening?!!

    “Borg is a collective proper noun for a fictional alien race that appears as recurring antagonists in the Star Trek franchise. The Borg are a collection of species that have been turned into cybernetic organisms functioning as drones a hive mind called the Collective, or the hive. The Borg use a process called assimilation to force other species into the Collective by violent injection of microscopic machines called nanoprobes. The Borg’s ultimate goal is “achieving perfection”.” — Wikipedia

  2. eric weiss says:

    I’m off of all social media. When I say that people groan. It’s not a “statement” or to be contrarian. I don’t think I’m above it. I did it because I was spending way too much time with it, to the detriment of the people who are physically in my life. I would cull my usage periodically, only to go back time and time again. The only solution was a clean break.

    “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Niel Postman predicted a lot of the effects of social media before it even existed.

    Whenever I go out with friends we stack our phones in the middle of the table and the first one to check for anything other than an incoming phone call has to pick up the tab. A buddy’s need to find out the score of the last Fames/Canucks game cost him $500.

    • Warren says:

      I love that tab idea. I’m going to use that.

    • Lance says:

      I think that is a fantastic idea. Has anyone ever had to pick up the tab?

      • eric weiss says:

        Apart from the die hard Flames fan I mentioned, no. We’re all pretty much in the same mind frame when it comes to getting “off the grid” more. And we’re all competitive as hell. No one wants to hear the ribbing we’d get from the others even more so than picking up the bill.

    • eric weiss says:

      A lot of it also had to do the realization that I’m really not that interesting. The amount of hubris required to think that everyone everywhere needs to know our every thought, deed and new hairstyle is pretty high. I’m not a public person, the public isn’t interested in how I feel about last week’s Game of Thrones or my cats.

    • George says:

      Eric, my experience exactly. The best thing I ever did (besides marrying my wife) was getting rid of Facebook. Benefits include enhanced mental clarity, better mood, less distraction, and when I see someone I haven’t seen in a while, we actually have an interesting conversation because there is real news. I’m also spared the drudgery of the “humble brag” and other anti-social, sociopathic and narcissistic behaviour which FB tends to exacerbate.

      I now turn my mobile phone off in the evening too. If people want me, they can call the house. There is beauty in simplicity and it’s easier to appreciate the things that matter when not absorbed in trivial pursuits through electronics.

      This isn’t a condemnation of those who use social media and devices, just a reflection on my personal experience.

  3. Al in Cranbroook says:

    Every year, I and three close family members get together for a few days of hunting. To get away from it all. We head out from the truck at first light. The very moment everyone gets back for lunch, out come the gadgets, and for the next 15 minutes there’s nothing happening except texting, etc.

    Except for me.

    I refuse to own any kind of those things, always have, always will. Makes me crazy!

    People come to visit, or we go out to visit, those gadgets are in just about everyone else’s hands, ready to respond in an instant to…what? WHAT??? Check latest tweets? Check FB for count on “likes” of latest post? Prompt responses so people are assured that you give a shit about…what? Had a FB page for about a year. Wiped it out forever. Nuff of that idiocy!

    Bitch, bitch, bitch about privacy…all the while people spend every waking minute of their day hanging every last thing they do, or think about anything…no matter how inane or trivial. One person I worked with showed me her statement for her son’s gadget. Over 7000 texts inside of 30 days!!! Do the math. Does he even take a GD crap without one of those things in his hands!!!

    Not for me, not ever!

  4. Lance says:

    The front of my driveway is the converging point for the neighborhood high-school kids taking the bus. And there they are, standing in a rough circle, with their devices out clicking away. Its almost as if they are body-snatchers receiving a communiqué. There they are, only feet away from each other, and yet further away than ever. I find it so profoundly sad.

  5. Peter says:

    The social media platform isn’t the problem – and nor is the problem the type of device we have. The problem, as Whedon suggests, is us: our brains are wired in such a way that we are addicted to precisely the sort of stimulation our devices provide

    Quite right. As with booze, tobacco and heroin. The problem isn’t with them, it’s with us. We really must get around to doing something about us.

  6. Devil's Advocate says:

    I remember my mother complaining that I spent so much time on the Commodore 64 in the 1980s when I was a kid that I’d be “turning into a computer”. I make my living in information technology now.

    Complaining that kids today are addicted to their gadgets is the same kind of complaining that occurred back in the 1940s about kids reading comic books instead of the classics.

    The positive side of kids being addicted to video games and the internet instead of socializing in real life is that instead of going outdoors to cause mischief and steal hubcaps, they’re tethered to their little devices at home. Parents used to worry incessantly about teenage pregnancy — now they complain that their kids don’t go out enough. Yet the rate of teen pregnancy is going down. And violent crime is also going down–I’d rather that thugs express their violent aggression vicariously through Grand Theft Auto than do a car hijacking in real life. I bet that the Nintendo DS is a great pacifying device to keep the kids in the back of the car calm and quiet during a road trip. Does anybody really want to go back to the days of “Are we there yet?”

    All of the conspiracy theory cranks kept worrying about a 1984-style dystopia. Instead, we are amusing ourselves to death. Here’s a humorous comic strip regarding today’s world resembling Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ far moreso than Orwell’s nightmare vision:

    http://www.prosebeforehos.com/image-of-the-day/08/24/huxley-vs-orwell-infinite-distraction-or-government-oppression/

    • George says:

      I was a C64 nerd too. Big difference then vs. now.

      It took brains to operate a 64 especially if you did anything other than play pre-manufactured games.

      I shudder when friends brag about how “smart” their 3 year old kid is for knowing how to use an iPad.

      I agree that complaints tend to recycle themselves, but I also think with everything so inter-connected, the opportunities for the 1984-style dystopia are much greater than they were when you and I were POKEing 52380 and 52381 to make the screen black.

  7. davie says:

    A lady named Marie Winn, circa 1980, authored a book in which she said that tv was a plug in drug. She argued that the images appeal to that part of a person’s brain that many drugs can affect. She added that watching a person ‘withdraw’ from tv addiction was similar to watching a person withdraw from drugs.
    Seems to me that the added attraction to our shiny screens today is that they are interactive. We are having exchanges with whatever is on that screen. (My assumption is always that real human beings are reading what I write here, and those same real human beings respond…You are real human beings…aren’t you?)

  8. Gaspar dela Jour says:

    Are all these technological devices tools for useful communication…. or just emotional outlets to unload all your emotional baggage du jour?
    Are they indispensable needs like food and sex, or are they a form of parasitic paranoia?

    I wonder…..

    • doconnor says:

      All successful forms of communication since the dawn of man have primarily been used for unloading all your emotional baggage du jour. And yes, it is an indispensable need.

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