I feel the same stresses that many people seem to be experiencing at the moment. The pressure in your mind that nothing seems to fix. The inability to concentrate and the nagging idea that you might be depressed. At the point where all the issues that the previous two years brought should be subsiding, for many of us it feels worse.
Perhaps it is my health issues catching up with me, perhaps I am just getting old, but I can’t escape the feeling of dread. I simply don’t feel like the person I used to, as if something has been taken from me, and I am constantly searching to get it back. For weeks and months, having no clue what was missing in my life, until I stumbled on a podcast with Johann Hari and discovered it’s my attention.
During the pandemic, I have leaned on the online world to keep me going. Relying on my online friends and the ever-changing discourse to keep me entertained and engineer at least some kind of normality. For this, I am eternally grateful. Taking part in iMessage groups and Twitter rambling chats has been a godsend. Unfortunately, this has had such a detrimental effect on my mental health and general life enjoyment that it's hard to quantify it. An effect further exaggerated by my day job being constantly connected to the web.
This isn’t another downer post. I am not moaning about my impulses to open Twitter constantly. I am not berating the internet for doing something that makes good business sense. It is more of my admittance that I understand it now. I know where the itch comes from, and it is inside me. I am craving something else. An escape, some company, or simply a distraction from something that I don’t want to do, and the apps or services created to gain your attention are always willing to give me whatever it is you need.
They, of course, will keep serving you whatever you require. Through algorithms and machine learning, pulling in manipulative design and gaming our system — they will always know what you require even if you don’t. Each time you log on the battle commences to keep your attention, but you don’t have to let it. It sounds simple, but it takes effort and understanding coming to terms that the motivation is in you.
I have too long been blaming everything else but myself for this. Only now after I have broken the cycle, I can see that the issue was with me all along. The internet is not at fault, it has been the support network for us all. Working, interacting and playing online has got us through, but it’ hurting us to continue this reliance, don’t let it keep you down.
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