Coping with ‘the colossal volume of memories’

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In an interview with the Financial Times, Apple lead designer office Jony Ive points to one of the technological conundrums of our time: balancing ease with excess.

“We have such a high-quality camera with us all the time. But it becomes irrelevant if you can’t actually enjoy the photographs you’ve taken. Even 30 years ago there was always a box somewhere containing hundreds and hundreds of photographs. So this isn’t a new problem. What is a new problem is the sheer degree, the colossal volume of memories that we have recorded, and as important as the recording is the way of enjoying what you’ve recorded, and I think that’s something that’s just an ongoing experiment, and it’s an ongoing creative project for us.”

Smartphones make it too easy to capture and even easier to consume photos. Given the profundity of images, we don’t spend enough time reviewing them.

To quote Om Malik: “We have come to a point in society where we are all taking too many photos and spending very little time looking at them.”

The age of abundance combined with undeterred distraction poses an interesting creative problem that’s more complicated than storing boxes of photos in the attic, never to be seen again.

gif via Mashable

A little bit louder now

Provocation is neither about engagement nor expression — it’s about likes and shares.

The lightning rod on Twitter will always outshine the passive inspirer, hiding from the market.

But it is the quality of interactions that deliver the message. Neither the loud nor the faint succeeds.

Speak softly and carry a big stick.

Hobbying for hobbies sake

Whether it’s trying surfing or playing the guitar when’s the last time you did something out of pure joy?

In this Instagram-edited era where everyone gets their own stage, people only like to do things they’re good at. The thought goes: ‘if I can’t share it and show my best self, why do it?’

The aim for perfection limits the urge to enjoy hobbies for hobbies sake. As the author Tim Wu notes:

“But there’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them. Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time.”

The comedian never knows how their material will reciprocate until they get on stage and try their material. The jazz musician tweaks their tempo to test audience reaction. The writer publishes a first chapter of the book for feedback. In terms of professional life, showing your work is critical. But as a hobbyist, you don’t need reassurance. Again, writes Wu:

“Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.”

Playing is natural, reception is artificial. It is hobbies that feed the soul with pure goodness. Showcasing the hobby is not necessary, but if so, neither is acing it.

Hobbies shouldn’t feel like work. They are a process to enjoy.

“The physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But it is best understood by its analogy to music. Because music as an art form is essentially playful. We say you play the piano, you don’t work the piano.”

Alan Watts

Hashtag heaven

Luxury today and tomorrow will be defined by the ability to disconnect, to live a secret life where there’s no need to stay constantly connected for the sole purpose of a future job or fear of missing out.

Social media is a poor insurance policy. Except disconnecting is not the goal — moderation is.

An excess of anything will make you sick, your eyes roll and stomach turn. The culprits: beer, candy, coffee, tv, and screen opiates.

Drunk and unconscious, the dopamine on loop — you aren’t meant to pursue hedonism all the time. You need time to restore some willpower.

The connective power of the internet is uncanny. Mobile tech is too good to be true. But we don’t need to be a millionaire to stem its negative impact.

The key to unlocking hashtag heaven is to take a deliberate break every once in a while. Leave your phone behind or you’ll unconsciously use it.

Instead, grab a leash and take your thoughts for a walk. That’s wellness that works.

The sharing virus

The biggest threat to a virus is its own exhaustion. It wants to be said, repeated, and spread until it cements into a meme.

Words, ideas, and apps are all types of viruses. Pretty much anything that spreads. Most are benign of course but perhaps none is more pervasive and self-inflicted than the sickness of self-promotion.

The social media age is plagued with envy, where everyone tries to one-up each other with their next best post. The cycle of jealousy shatters reality into shards of half-truths.

The sharing virus constricts people to a 1080 x 1080 square. Meanwhile, portrait mode constrains satisfaction. Spiraling into overextension, overworked trends and habits start to leak.

We like to think we’re dabbling in the next niche before the entire market even knows it.

The only reassurance you need

We treat fame and social media status like currency. We presuppose that anonymity or a lack of engagement trivializes what we do.

Even worse, we let TV and Instagram determine our self-worth.

But what and who matters is rarely popular. No one wants to pull back the curtain and see the sweat and tears of a Van Gogh, who toiled in obscurity his entire living life. He never knew publicity.

Even if you’ve achieved some level of recognition, what you consider your best work will almost always contrast with the public perception.

At the end of the day, humans want to feel necessary. They want to commit themselves to a worthy discipline, whether’s it’s expressed through art or driving an Uber to support the art or vice versa.

It’s a canard to think that fame predetermines whether your matter or not. The most important things in your life are provided by the most anonymous people.

Fame is fake stimuli. If you feel like your work matters, that’s the only placebo you need.

From bytes to bits of reality

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We demand privacy yet admit ourselves to the culture of exposure. But rather than celebrating our uniqueness, we publish the same things everybody else does: selfies, food porn, and bullet journal snapshots.

The one benefit to seeing other people’s stories is the reinforcement of FOMO (fear of missing out). The unlived life taunts one into action. In such a way, FOMO can represent a positive form of encouragement. It gets off our screens and into the real world.

Life’s richest data emerges from lived experiences rather than the pixels on a screen. Exposure carves us into beings rather than lemmings of technology’s manipulative desires.

Inspired by adventure, we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and explore more of the parts unknown.

Taste the rainbow, on loop

There it was, crushing the human will. It was the antithesis to my Kindle Jenner, a screen of sanctity for focus and learning.

The lite brite is an attention thief. Like a fresh bag of Skittles, it begs you to consume your favorite colors first.

The rainbow hue of Instagram may be the shiniest of them all. Beautiful photos have a smell, as love does.

On the go or at home, there is no sanctuary. The barrage of dopamine erases all head consciousness. Enter wonderland.

The only escape is Gmail, that insignificant other who instills a feeling of control. Yet, it too is goose chase to unproductivity.

The internet never ends. Like a perpetual wave of Hokusai-like talons, buffering into the collective consciousness. Altered attention, altered thoughts, altered beliefs, forever planted at the altar of distraction.

Four to one

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The goal is to be good at more than one thing. Everyone should be versatile.

But sometimes it is better to narrow yourself to expand. Instead of doing everything, you focus on doing one thing well. And the rest gets better as a result.

Take social networking for example. It’s a misperception that one has to be on all networks, sharing all the time. So you take shortcuts. After publishing a new blog post, you automatically share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Google+.

Frictionless broadcasting may work for those who already have an acquired audience. But for the startup or entrepreneur — they will need to work harder to get attention. And the best way to do that is to pick one network and double-down.

Focusing on Twitter, for instance, may allow you to write concise tweets, insert captivating media, and include vanity links. Focusing on Instagram may allow you to include the niche hashtags related to the post that gives the image an extra boost.

Single-tasking on one marketing channel takes a strategy. Publishing is deliberate and methodical, the community engagement well-intentioned.

Less is more. The pattern of interactions will bleed into other outlets. Unlike the feather, you’ll be the wind directing all the controls.

Living in porous, glass houses

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gif by Ordinary Nadee

Privacy is extinct, self-inflicted. Within selfies, tweets, and blog posts, we open the floodgates to our mind.

The internet normalizes exposure. Nothing to hide, we all build glass houses around our lives. Shine the light on us, we declare–pay us with your attention in the currency of likes and shares.

Scroll and refresh, the influencer relishes the spurts of fame, gaining celebrity status behind a wall of edited images that declare their importance.

What is privacy anymore?

Writes Rochelle Gurstein in Self-Invasions and the Invaded Self:

“When the boundary between public and private becomes as extremely porous as it is today, we lose far more than “that kingdom of the mind, that inner world of personal thought and feeling in which every man passes some time,” which would have been disastrous enough.”

An obsession with exposure can get some to the top, making amafessionalism acceptable. No one appears competent to do anything, heart surgery done by a mere Googler.

Mistaking publicity with skill, the deception is our own speed of digestion. It’s too easy to start, to show that we’re all worthy candidates of recognition.

But the skills remain scarce. Talent, built in private, is something to behold in public. Until then, it’s back to the closet.

When sharing is not so self-caring

Social media is a world where everyone tries to out self-promote each other and in doing so, stretch their lives further from reality.

Even the destinations — whether it be a restaurant, hotel resort, or kayaking trip — want to make their experiences more Instagrammable.

Sharing has commoditized life, turning us into an avalanche of rotating ads, blurring the lines between paid and organic. Every post is an ad in some way, shape, or form. Like TV, we start to develop an imaginary relationship with those on screen, doubtful we’d ever met in real life.

The blizzard of images droughts perception with seeing. We feel envious of those in our feed before we know why we may feel so. The contagion of jealousy spreads like a virus. The upshot is a homogenization of lives and content.

We all want what we don’t have. Social media generates a false narrative of unnecessary desire. Instagrams are just pictures on a wall, temporarily surfing over the hopes and fears in our genes. It feels good lying stuck in the ludic loop.

But irreality is ephemeral. The long-term narrative eventually wakes us up to the fact that we’re barking up the wrong tree. Life is here and now, attracting itself and trying to love you back.

Stand out of our light

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Huxley predicted that the deliberate flood of information, perhaps a more lethal strategy than Orwellian censorship, would dent our interest in reading books, having active opinions, and therefore make us passive.

The internet, of course, puts information distribution on hyper-speed, skipping from one issue to the next. People consume and quickly forget what’s important, all the while externalizing everything onto the screen. We have lost our ability to pay attention, not just because of tweeting politicians but because of screaming merchants.

There’s yet another book dissecting this very topic of how technology hijacks the brain. Author James Williams of Stand out of our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy writes: 

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time. We therefore have an obligation to rewire this system of intelligent, adversarial persuasion before it rewires us.”

The former Google strategist has witnessed the intentional creation of distractive technologies that overpower human will so we no longer “want what we want to want.”

The Financial Times book review writes:

In an attempt to invent new linguistic concepts, the author plays with three types of attentional light: spotlight, starlight and daylight, pertaining to doing, being and knowing.

In this respect, Williams admires the free-speaking Greek philosopher Diogenes. One day, while sunning himself in Corinth, he was visited by Alexander the Great, who promised to grant him any wish. The cranky Diogenes replied: “Stand out of my light!” Williams wants a handful of West Coast tech executives to stop blocking out our human light, too.

Perhaps if we regain our detachment from irreality we’ll be able to look back and pinpoint attention distortion with fresh eyes.

Sharing sameness on the gram

I’ve blogged about it before but it’s worth repeating: Instagram homogenizes creativity.

Scroll your feed, and I bet one of the pictures that comes up includes the following: a selfie, a coffee cup in hand, someone standing on a rock, riding in a canoe, or feet up in the sand or mountains, etc. It all looks the same!

Of course, similar cliche-looking pictures can be seen on Unsplash, where I often pluck images to share on my blog.

Thankfully we have accounts like @insta_repeat to remind people, especially adventure influencers, of their mimetic desire to copy each other. The creator of the account is an unknown artist of their own, with no intention than to call out the patterns of sameness in the digital space.

From Quartz

The creator of Insta_Repeat is a 27-year-old filmmaker and artist, who wants to remain anonymous. “I’m not trying to be the arbiter of what photos have value and what don’t. I am just making observations about the homogeneous content that is popular on Instagram,” she told Quartz over email. She says she is baffled by how many shots there are of humans in canoes and atop SUVs—but does see the positives in the repetitive nature of Instagram. “I also think there’s an incredible amount of value in emulation both when someone is learning and continuing their craft,” she says. “Improving upon and building upon what has been done…is an important part the evolution of art.”

The art of conformity is real. If at first, we copy, then we deduce, mixing and meshing what others do until we develop our own unique style. That’s a creator’s ambition anyway, to do something novel.   

Below are some of the most recent posts from the @insta_repeat account. Make sure to follow along for the latest collages.

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Twitter = High School

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via giphy

The impulsiveness, the cliques, the gossip, and the ego — the Twitter cesspool can be fun, entertaining, and darn-right toxic.

Unlike Instagram, Twitter brings out the worst in people through the abuse of words. In short, it is ‘The High School We Can’t Log Off From.’ Writes New York Times columnist Jennifer Senior:

A few years back, the sociologist Robert Faris described high school to me as “a large box of strangers.” The kids don’t necessarily share much in common, after all; they just happen to be the same age and live in the same place. So what do they do in this giant box to give it order, structure? They divide into tribes and resort to aggression to determine status.

The same can be said of Twitter. It’s the ultimate large box of strangers. As in high school, Twitter denizens divide into tribes and bully to gain status; as in high school, too-confessional musings and dumb mistakes turn up in the wrong hands and end in humiliation.

Unlike Apple, Facebook, Google, and Pinterest, Twitter bucked the Silicon Valley trend and kept Alex Jones’s account live. Twitter thrives on breaking news and its divisiveness.

Clay Shirky, one of the shrewdest internet theorists around, has noted that the faster the medium is, the more emotional it gets. Twitter, as we know, is pretty fast, and therefore runs pretty hot.

Yet despite all the negativity, Twitter may be the world’s most important social network even if it’s the least profitable. And while some of its users abuse the public microphone, others use it just to talk, teach, and share their work for the benefit of others.