Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Unplug from online to have a good time

I feel obliged to write something about why I haven’t been writing anything.

Dont worry, I hear the irony.
Which is one of the reasons I have been wrestling with this blog for so long. Yet my reasons for breaking my own silence now, are based on strong and evolving values I have for human interaction, sharing information and genuine communication.

I am writing it down, for those of you who don’t communicate with me in person. For those people I class as RL friends and loved ones who keep extra tabs on my adventures through social media and maybe need a nudge to update their conscious understanding of the meaning of true interaction. But yet I also write for those ‘friends’, acquaintances and associates that through the vortex of social media, have the opportunity to read what is posted about my life and judge me. Or most commonly misjudge me.

Anyway. Your opinion is not fact.
Your perception is not reality.
It is your experience.
It is different to everyone else’s.
That’s why it’s important to be open minded and discuss our experiences in a way that enables us to share view points and accept others.

So this blog is exactly sharing information so that you are informed and can go on to make your own decisions, build an educated opinion.

People form their opinions based on the meaning they impose onto their experiences and from information they glean from sources good or bad. This can be related to as your consciousness. Receiving information is part of your consciousness learning and evolving.  Sharing information outside of your comfort zone, keeps you from becoming stuck in a familiar pattern of the same old experience.

Yet, it shouldn’t matter what we know, its how we share our experiences (or share what we think we know) and how we interact with others while doing so, that really matters. We can hold the most opposite of values and beliefs, yet if we communicate them with love and respect, a shared understanding will harness an interesting and rich experience.

Some people voice their opinions based on their own narrow view of experiences. Stanbding from a singular viewpoint. Others give little consideration to communication, and for many communication does not involve actually being in the room where you can genuinely immerse themselves in the forms of verbal and non-verbal interaction. They live predominantly in the online safety of their feedback loop. 

So it is here, in this online domain, I must traverse for a moment or two. To put my truth out there.

I have been contemplating a choice about the way I communicate online. Do I engage with the current trend of instant response gratification or not? Do I unplug completely from social media or find some in between balance? And do I actually want to read status updates of sensationalised opinions and ill considered commentary on other peoples lives? Can I just disconnect from the machine and enjoy the connections and interactions that happen in RL? (real life)

So! We all know social media creates an experience of disconnect. Or you should do. If you don’t...look it up! Check out anything from the links I have at the end of this blog, or watch anything by Jaron Lanier, if you wanna get a quick understanding...

The internet is being used to further manipulate our experiences. Jaron calls social media ‘Behaviour Modification Empires’ and to be honest, I agree with him.

The more I research and the more I help people in my line of work as a counsellor, the more I see evidence of a dependence on social media validation which in turn breeds fear of rejection in the real world. And yet the internet was set up to provide free public information and a means of communication. But now we are communicating through web sites and applications that target our dopamine and market at us in a way that affects our decision making. “If two people wish to communicate, it should not be dependent on a third party who wishes to manipulate them.” So I’m growing concerned.

Concern for society's acceptance of being plugged in.
Concern for the mind set of group mentality validation.
Concern of the demise of consideration to an individual’s back story.
Concern for the subtle reduction of our Human Rights.
Concern that my privacy is already violated and I am not safe online.
Concern that the conspiracy some people see here, is being ignored by many because the internet makes everything seem so ‘convenient.’

But please, don’t just believe me, do your own research. Run your own experiments.

Because if you don’t. If you are sitting quite comfortably in your echo chamber of likes and familiar threads, your dopamine drained by a blatant algorithm designed to keep you plugged in and suggestible to mass opinion and marketing techniques, you are being reduced and controlled my friend.

Break free from the chamber and unplug!

If you really want to understand this. And how much we are being controlled, then check out this film. It is long (2 hours), its well cheesy in places (why oh why are they floating around in a virtual space ship hahahaha) AND its depressing and scary as fuck. But it’s ALL FACT. 

I recommend you sit down and watch it in half hour slots. Use a notepad and make a note every time you disbelieve something or feel strong emotions. Make a note. Every time. And go take those points you noted and do your own research. It will all bring you back to the same point. I’d love to know what you think about this situation we are experiencing. Get back to me with your views...

Social media is a tool for communication. But how valuable and genuine?

Communication has always been important to me. Whether it’s been the hilarious uplifting postcards I received weekly from my Nanna, the long emails from my mum when she moved away from home, or the hours on the phone with my besties when I finally left home. I’ll use it all, if its means I can keep in contact and keep up to date with the festivities and factors influencing your life. The delight is in the detail after all.

Communication can be an adventurous journey of differences that takes you to a place of understanding and knowledge.  Yet with social media, insta chat apps and even text at our reactive finger tips, it seems that our ability to reflect, relate and communicate a considered response is becoming a lost talent.

The past 6 months I have gone through a lot of stuff and during that time I have cut off the regular use of social media. I have even turned my phone off completely for periods of time. Purposefully reducing the opportunity for uninvited contact. 

I have undertaken a few experiments of limited social media use. I have found that living in the real world, in real time and reflecting on my experiences and interactions, has brought me to acknowledge that my life without social media is pretty expanding. Eclectic. Fulfilling. Abundant. Mindful and absolutely present.

I do not miss the fakery of online socialising. The catastrophising. The minimising. The demonising. The making of martyrs. Especially do not miss the making of dinner.

And absolutely not the intrusion of cookie led advertising. Nor the circle of perpetual personal comfort and agreement the algorithms will have you believe.

This modern world we find ourselves interacting within, these rooms and networks, all of this social sharing, this online dis-inhibition and facebook fantasy, is bringing us the opposite experience of what is intended from communication and connection. And a decision began to form for me. TURN OFF SOCIAL MEDIA.

I wish to share just some of the information that informed the processing to this decision, in the hope that others will maybe do the same research, but mostly so that my true friends will know to get in touch using my phone number, if they really want to share adventures or ‘like’ what we can actually do together. In person.

One of my experiments with usage was to treat social media the same way we used to screen our incoming calls on the answer phone. I glanced at it by way of finding out what people in my life are doing. Once I get an update worthy of response, I log out and call them up. Or go visit. Simple. When you look at it this way, as a source of useful information. It becomes apparent that most of what you read, is not useful. Not at all.

I also carried out considerable research on online dis-inhibition and factors of communication online for my online counselling qualification and discovered the following:

Only 7% of the way we communicate is attributed to the written word. 7%. The WORDS.

When using written text, the intonation is applied through the correct use of grammar, punctuation and semantics based on the understanding of the reader and...guess what...the voice in their head.

Whaaaatttttt? Oh yeah. You better believe it.

Literally how they read it.
So quite often, their mood. How people feel when writing is not often forthcoming (why do you think Faceache have emojis to tell others what you are thinking / feeling / doing)? Because it adds context.

Take these examples:
1-OMG! My dad just came home with a dog...

Can you tell if the writer is happy about it? Shitting themselves? Excited? Nervous? Is the dog for them? Do they like dogs?

Try reading it angry. Read it as if you were cooing over a baby. Read it over excitedly. Read it bored.

Can you hear how the way you read it in your head, can imply different meaning by your intonation.

Well all written communication is this way. It is not how its written, its how you read it.

If you get a message from someone you have a formed opinion about, say...a nagging friend who always seems to party. You may read it in a sarcastic way (do it!) and find yourself offended.

2-What are you up to tonight? Bet you are having a quiet night in with a book...

And yet the opposite (and many other explanations too) could be true...perhaps they are envious of your cosy plans and are making an opening for an invite to join you.

Maybe they are trying to explore your plans for a surprise treat.

Maybe they want to tell someone some news and need a friend.

Or maybe they want to brag about an awesome night they have ahead. And need a friend.

The point being, you need more information, you have to consider various possibilities.....all of NOT good communication.

Most of the skills required for genuine connection and sharing of information is nonexistent in status updates and text box word counts. If only 7% of communication is effective using WORDS, then we
are barely communicating at all using social media.

And, as I mentioned earlier, it is influenced by factors which can change hourly (mood, concentration, patience, compassion) or by factors that are unique to you and ostensibly your relationship with the individual who has written the words you are reading.

So if we accept that intonation as intended is not audible, and that when we are reading, we apply the tone ourselves. And in that we reflect more in how we are feeling when we receive the information and certainly how we believe we are perceived by the sender, than how it is actually intended.

In short, what you take from information, infers more about you, than the person communicating the information in the first place.

A point well made by Kali Muro’s who wrote a paper a few years back called ‘Conflict in Cyberspace’ stating that the person will project their perception onto communication if it is not clear enough. Leaving it open to transference and interpretation. Probably the worse thing you can ask for when trying to reach out to others. Mis-communication. we not really care how we are perceived online because we are merely reflecting an image of our self to our self?

Which leads me nicely to my final research point. Who are you online? What version, tailored or exaggerated you is presented? And why?

Online personality disorder is now a thing. No, really.
People are developing an inability to merge
their online persona with who they are in RL. Experiencing heightened levels of dissatisfaction with their identity and disconnect from actual face to face experiences.

In some cases this presents as the ability to ‘be more me’ online. Because it has a safety barrier of non presence, which allows the individual to feed only parts of their personality,  or degrees of all parts but only online, often aspects that are the easiest to accept and with limited challenge to their whole self, congruence and indeed accountability.

Online communication offers people a screen they can literally and metaphorically hide behind.
In some it enables them to hide themselves and masquerade as an alternative version, ‘be another me’.

Seeking validation for singular aspects of their identity without reflecting on how this fits with them as a whole being. Creating a dissidence between their RL experiences against a comparison of their online personality.

All very fracturing in a society with increasing depression, anxiety and stress.

Your online persona should mirror who you are in real life. Not provide a protective boundary that enables you to be more outspoken, more riske, more brave, more ‘yourself’. The risk here is that you believe that this part of you is validated by experience and feedback. It is not. It is validated by likes, emoji’s and word count. All of which are manipulated to keep you in this docile state.

Once you realise that much of this feedback is purposely filtered and fed to you to keep you in a state of compliance, you lose hope in the system and crave a real conversation. Well I do anyway.

I find it fascinating how people respond to each other in a vacuum of consideration. As if, in real life, if you walked into a room with an interesting discussion going on you would ever just drop a five word statement in and then walk out the room and go home.

How is that either sociable or real?

Neither should you be saying things online in a way that you would not say if those on your friends list were actually in the room with you.

I see this a lot. People over exaggerating, catastrophising, victimising and martyring people for their own validation.  And sometimes it is a careless abandon to semantics, but it is thoughtless all the same.

And I like my communication with others to be considered and thoughtful.

I have always considered the internet to be a fantastic resource rather than a virtual reality.

I am from Generation X.

The technology generation who can recall 'finding our way' around the internet without guidelines or parameters and indeed having to navigate peer to peer and often child to parent learning around internet safety and security. Let alone the emerging issues of social conformity of an online community and perspectives of communication that impact our ability to connect meaningfully in person .

We are only just beginning to see the effects of a variety of internet related addictions, RL vs. VR behaviours and risk factors which require better understanding and guidelines. People should have access to supportive navigation to transfer from one to the other safely (RL vs. VR), in a way that empowers self growth and diversity without demonising either experiences.

However it seems clear to me that common decency and the need to relate to each other’s values is key and should not suddenly change when we move from room to room of a building, nor room to room online.

Suler also predicted in a paper around online behaviours that  'Just how this new interconnectivity, where geographic constraints are abolished, will influence individual and social behaviour is unclear, but we know it will.' 

Although the internet has brought a world of experiences to the end of our finger tips much of the influence of this exposure is as yet uncharted. Rather like RL, relating our daily experiences between virtual and real life interactions must be communicated respectfully and considered.

Taking time to do it right online.
Or consider the prospect that it could be more meaningful done in real time. 

As you would when in a building and walking into rooms full of people, you keep your wits about
you, stand tall, steady and strong and stick to your values and core beliefs. The same is said for surfing into a new reality on the world wide web. There may be a seemingly protective screen between you and that world, but it is still your values and integrity that drive the platform of your experiences. As you limited your time online, your RL can expand and your conscious experiences grow.

This has certainly been my experience. Like I said earlier, don’t take my word for it. Experiment yourself.

So after a range of experiments and an overwhelming benefit from less social media time I have decided to delete my social media accounts.

I wish my disengagement to be counted along with many others stepping out of the X generation of cyber control and flexing our muscles back in the land of magical connections, signs of nature, smoke signals and body language.

We can use other technologies.

I am standing up against the insipid few who run our countries and spy on our lives, so as to manipulate us further. I will use my fingers to turn off and turn away and of course, use my voice.

I am sharing this with you so you can source your own  information to others to pass on. We can communicate with kindness and embrace our differences. We can share our diversity with compassion towards each individuals uniqueness. We can act on our own beliefs. We can uphold our values for an expanding consciousness. Ultimately we can save planet earth. We can be better human beings.

So farewell to those of you reading this through facebook, you can probably still find the occasional hippy blog over here on Citizen Rain. And you can definitely find me at the end of my phone number. See you in a field somewhere, on a road somewhere or up a hill somewhere.

Real Life beacons and it is immense. VR I gratefully decline.

Rewind, be kind. Dont be a dick. And mostly, be the real you, all the time.
Suler, J.R. (2002). Identity Management in Cyberspace.
Kali Muro: Conflict in Cyberspace
Mousso, M.  & White, N.(2004). Avoiding Online Conflict.
Michael Fenichel: Technical Difficulties, Formulations and Processes