Addie out in Nature

“Social Media is like crack, immediately gratifying and hugely addictive”. Gary Vaynerchuk

It seems like a lifetime ago since I was in the midst of 4 and 5G. My broadband and landline bill was £9.99 a month (long term contract package). For the £9.99 I could spend twenty four hours a day surfing whatever I chose. BT hotspots around the place also allowed me to login from different locations. I also had a built in hotspot facility for my devices so that I could work on the move.

I remember being annoyed when speeds dropped slightly, “oh the inconveniences of the first world”.

We loved the Terminator movies where Sky Net was going to bring anarchy to the world through computer networking domination. Similar movies and clips have poked fun at the potential of virtual life takeover. Joke?

Now that I am on the other side of better understanding around internet usage I feel nauseas when I think about the gadget which I had in my hand too many hours during the day. The iPhone. I remember feeling exhausted all the time, not sleeping so well at night and conversations with people being sketchy and distracted. The one thing I loved about having internet in the car was plugging my phone into the cigarette lighter compartment and listening to spiritual mind management talks on the way to work or on the journey home.

I didn’t care who called through, I didn’t take the call during this time. This little routine only started in the latter part of my life in the UK and it was deeply precious. Then, I started to leave my phone at home (having the luxury of no children to worry about) on social occasions. Just a glimpse of ‘sunlight’ started to peep through the mesmerising social media clouds. It was at this point when I decided to leave life as I had known it. I knew I had to when I would get work WhatsApp messages at 6 am in the morning and feel a sense of dread, of anger rising within me. I didn’t want to go to sleep with technology in my ear or in front of my face and I certainly didn’t want to rise like this either. What kind of way is that to start or end one’s day? Where is the life quality?

It felt like the spiritual life-force that I was, was being bombarded by another life-force which was wreaking havoc on all of my senses. It was making me feel, say, do, think things, outside of my control. I wanted this control back. I wanted to be able to switch off without feeling like I was missing out or that I needed this additional pulsation. Had life under the internet really become like an addiction, a drug?

So much is built into these devices. We are commuting, doing banking, making retail purchases, ordering food, taking pictures, communicating instantly, even dating (not to mention the terminology and arguments connected to this important aspect of our lives), using these single devices. What have these single devices become? Who is doing the reflection and contemplating when the device accompanies the person? Do we even know anymore? The upgrades include more and more applications to eliminate other providers / human solutions.

I remember my Facebook profile was once cloned and used on a dating website (I swear on this occasion I hadn’t set it up) and I had some explaining to do to my girlfriend who only had to google the issue and find others bitterly complaining about the clone. Social media can cause mayhem!

Then, there is business security. The best have been fooled into ‘handing over’ millions of pounds and sensitive information. So much has been invested in cyber security with very clever hackers and often ‘paid’ very well. Going online opens us up immediate risk. Data collation means risk to individuals. I like to compare the volume of incoming available data space to a flood, the pipes are open and the water is flowing through, bringing everything with it, gateways burst open and vulnerability in the system also fails under the weight of the ‘flood travel’.

I once accessed a video streaming site (not one of those) and the ‘gremlins’ changed my home search engine completely to some Czech website with all sorts of weird and wonderful pop-ups, infecting the system as they went along. Where sites are even more unregulated, they can let all sorts of ‘nasties’ through the door. I was careless and sometimes carelessness with passwords, accessing unregulated sites etc can cost.

One afternoon in Williamsburg NYC I met a guy who was working on coding of some sort on his laptop and I asked him how much sleep he gets in a day and he said, “perhaps two hours in two days!” He was having a drink with the laptop lid halfway down, he looked haggard. I remember the last time the NHS was hacked and the frenzy it caused. Sometimes hackers want to just issue a statement, “we can”.

As I wonder the green fields, brown hills, beaches and flower gardens of St Helena, quietly staring into the face of beauty without photo-shopping or virtual interference, I see life. Life as it was meant to be (even if I pretend to be smoking a large joint with a ‘monkey tail’). I see life without the intrusion millions of algorithms which are constantly guiding me to what third parties would like me to look at. Breathing in the fresh air, it is good to be outside. I am not missing out. I am not less healthy. I am not less fashionable or less popular. I just am…… doing my thing without the need to bow to a ‘God’ which sits with many different faces.

Remember these big fellas? Toronto’s Yorkville District

Why are we so afraid to let go, even just for an hour? Why are we not able to put our phone in our bag and if it rings, we answer it but we don’t need it on the table in front of us or in our pockets buzzing away? At work, we now use smartphones (I know I did) to reference calls and dismiss the ones I didn’t want to take. Nuisance calls from banks, insurance companies, solicitor firms, all selling something or other. We’ve been bombarded from every angle where the smart has become smarter. Withheld numbers are normally an indication of some kind of prank call.

At dinner time, families are sitting with devices instead of having good old fashioned family chats. Our social interaction is dipping. We’ve even started sending messages from room to room…..daren’t we have to walk to the next room to interact.

Addiction, it comes in many forms but I suggest social media addiction is one of the greatest challenges to our society in these modern times because it encompasses other addictions like shopping, gambling etc. There is so much goodness online, so much we can learn about. We can now reference subjects very quickly. This is creating a huge glut of information and working through this information is important to ensure we do not get side-tracked by the platforms which will detract from the positivity that the internet has to offer.

I understand my responsibility and I take it very seriously which is why I have worked with others to create platforms which talk about these kinds of social challenges. We can use the internet for good. We can use it to combat the destructive.

The most knowledgeable people within the internet industry prohibit their children from certain elements. Why do you think this is?

Once again, I am not suggesting that we can derail the oncoming train or that we should do but individually, we have a responsibility to know, to understand and to protect our families, friends and society at large by taking that responsibility seriously and doing our bit to encourage healthy breaks, breathing, time out.

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