The newest app, the latest iPhone — we make an excuse to spend more time with our smartphones. What can be perceived as self-absorption is also hypnosis, as the phone’s rectangular glow grips us into a ludic loop.
Social networks intend to get us out of a trance and sting us into experiencing the world; at least that’s what Instagram and Pinterest promised to do at their inception. Instead, our phones have our first, second, and third eye, recording memories so we can consume and forget about them again later. We are walking zombies, skilled without an iota of consciousness.
The smartphone is an arsenal of distraction, a computer, tv, stereo, and communications device propping up the thumbs of our hands. But it’s also the most liberating tool we’ve ever had. Used wisely, we can shape it to goad our curiosity, make new friends, and explore our creative instincts.
People generally see and believe only what’s in front of them, disconnected from the magic of their consciousness. Reality is separate from the chorus of chemical reactions inside our heads.
The prevailing theory ushered in by philosopher David Chalmers is that our conscious experience is considered the “hard problem,” a process so superior and mysterious it lies beyond the reach of science.
The mind and the world are one of natural phenomenon. “We should get it straight once for all,” says philosopher and computer scientist Riccardo Manzotti, “there are no hard problems in nature, only natural problems. And we are part of nature.”
Is the conscious experience of an object identical with the object one experiences or is the conscience invisible to science and therefore thriving within its own “phenomenal mind?”
Every story needs a villain that disobeys the rules. Bereft of drama we lose interest in the hero’s tale.
Struggle makes us human. The will to defeat Goliath comes with an exaggerated sense of faith.
We overcompensate for our vulnerabilities, and in doing so, raise the stakes of our own determination. “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how,” wrote Nietzsche in the Twilight of the Idols.
Very few fighters go undefeated. It’s up to the hero to accept risk in the possibility of a loss. A creature of pure whim and incoherent self ultimately meets their maker.
If we don’t pay attention — keep our eyes on the donut rather than the donut hole — we’ll lose the plot. Said the stoic Marcus Aurelius in his journal Meditations:
“Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.”
If we don’t stop and smell the flowers, our mind will follow the latest obsessive thought or get stuck in the ludic loop of Twitter or Instagram.
In such an environment that values speed over infinite improvement, we need to force ourselves to pause, to step outsides ourselves and to detach from the closeness of our own world in order to cultivate a more objective narrative.
Knowledge can be a hindrance. The more we know, the more likely we’re to hesitate in times of execution.
So the overthinking basketball player misses a wide open layup, the tennis player misses an easy return, or the painter or writer can’t seem to get their inspiration to convert on a blank canvas.
Stalling is a symptom of facing the resistance. When we try too hard to be perfect, we may do nothing at all.
So how can we stem the tide of excess contemplation?
One of the ways to think less author Flann O’Brien once said was to act “calculatedly stupid” and to enjoy what we’re doing. As Vincent Van Gogh put it: “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile.”
We are at our best when we’re relaxed and instinctive, free from the chaos of the monkey mind.
Unthinking is the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation. Its power is not confined to sport: actors and musicians know about it too, and are apt to say that their best work happens in a kind of trance.
So do the work and let go, let God. Let inspiration be free-floating perspiration.
The only threat to the longevity of Facebook is that it makes people feel like shit.
Facebook’s relationship with its users, the product, is deeply psychological. It wants us to post whatever want, but all we end up doing is comparing our lives to other people in our own cocoons. We are ambiently aware of what everyone in our feed is doing.
The internet is a vast space of potential connectedness yet our relationships are usually with like-minded people. Our ideological bunkers reconfirm our beliefs, whether the content is real or fake.
The benefit of connectedness is proximity at scale — we can chat with a friend from the couch while Facebook surrounds us with ads like we’re standing in the middle of Times Square. Facebook is surveillance, and we give Big Brother the benefit of the doubt in selling our information to marketers in exchange for the ease of communication with so-called ‘friends.’
Facebook wants us to present our best selves online. It could care less about authenticity since it is our curated selves generate clicks and thereby give Facebook Ads a chance to make more money.
Facebook purports to be to the social network that upholds your real identity but its attention-based algorithm is psychologically damaging. The platform profits from fantasy, loneliness, and mimetic desire. Facebook persuades us to live the life we don’t want, thereby infringing on the personal liberty of making decisions that are key to our heart. Impressing others drains the soul of what we really want to do: express our uniqueness.
Facebook is the world’s biggest copy machine. It tries to box us in and disregard the person we really want to be. We are hooked on to its expectations of conformity and insularity.
You can go ahead and try to eat this apple. But the representation of the apple is pure fiction; you can’t eat it. It is a mere rendering of something you could consume. Like a map, it displays territory that exists only in mind.
Nonetheless, the picture provokes all the emotions that go in eating a real apple: the unpeeled texture, the juiciness, and sugary smell.
Pictures inherently lie just as the lines fabricate the authenticity of lines of territory on a map. What it is is the robust interpretation of the present in the fairytale of the movie-making mind. The dimension is here and now, neurologically tangible, but you still can’t touch it.
The marketing is only as good as what you tell yourself.
Identities are social. But not necessarily in the construct of how we or others see us but how we think others perceive us. External reflection is what philosopher and sociologist Charles Horton Cooley called ‘The Looking Glass Self’ theory.
“I imagine your mind, and especially what your mind thinks about my mind, and what your mind thinks about what my mind thinks about your mind.”
It doesn’t matter whether the engagement comes from bots or real people: Followers inflate our ego. Likes boost our self-esteem.
Social influence is a game of numbers. The more followers and interactions we get, the more credible we appear. Popularity promises self-worth.
But fighting for fame provokes a “potent cocktail of comparison for anxious people,” writes Laura Turner in The Atlantic.
“Twitter is a megaphone for achievements and a magnifying glass for insecurities, and when you start comparing your insecurities with another person’s achievements, it’s a recipe for anxiety.”
The entire social networking system is a jealousy-ridden machine where the most-followed have more say, despite the trifling nature of their content.
Online clout is the thief of joy.
Yet, while we continually compare ourselves to other people, social media compels us to try harder. With the right attitude, social networking can force us to pick up our game so that we can show the world what actually matters.
As much as the internet flattens the playing field and caters to niches, it is a barometer for judging the seriousness of our work. The social web is not all “artifice and spin.” Some people still want to make a difference. Connecting online can bring their dreams one step closer to reality.
There are many people who use their own media platforms to be the different one; to make a difference. Making connections online can bring our dreams one step closer to reality.
Work is the practice of gathering string. But it is the empty mind that weaves experience, knowledge, and ideas altogether.
The apple may have hit Newton’s head, but his insights into gravity were brewing all along.
There is no such thing as eureka, just the gradual harmonization of distilled moments that become apparent when we least expect them to.
We think to get rid of thoughts just like “the blues is played to get rid of the blues.” But we can’t think our way to innovation. We think most effectively when we turn off the monkey mind and permit creativity to break through the hush of silence. Off is on.
Even when we are not thinking — when we’re relaxed in the shower or doing the dishes — we’re thinking. We are always chewing on context, bringing excitement to the habitual self.
“A good idea doesn’t come when you’re doing a million things. The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son. It’s when your mind is on the other side of things.”