But…WHY. 📱⭐

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For the love of being liked…

Everybody wants to be naked and famous.

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Losing control of our attention

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via giphy

Screens are contagious. If we see one person look at their phone, we emulate them like we do catching someone yawn.

But the addiction is not totally our fault. With the vibrant colors of apps, the dopamine of Facebook likes and news alerts, on top of serving as a consolidated utility of our camera, wallet, and communications device, our phones are designed to hook us.

Tech is the “cigarette of the century.”

It’s amazing that in this post-internet world of surfeit information and 24/7 conversation we can even concentrate at all. We’ve numbed our thumbs from excessive use.

We’ve lost the signal to those little gaps of solitude and doing nothing where we reaped the benefits of a wandering imagination.


Can we get our bored minds back?

There are plenty of options other than riding the Facebook or Google monopoly on our attention. For as many tricks these companies play us, there as many tips to get away from them: turning our screen gray, just sitting and staring outside the window, and at the most extreme: throwing our phone into the ocean.

We can only harvest quality attention if we can escape the torment of distraction and external stimuli fighting for the inside of our heads. The world around us already creates a theater inside our head. We see the world once, with an intrinsic pair of eyes, with no need to record the outside world with a third eye.

“Attention is a form of prayer,” wrote French philosopher Simone Weil. We should insist on slowing down if we’re to restrengthen the human will.

Coping with the maelstrom of news

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It’s hard enough to cultivate awareness. We drown in our own ineptitude to sort and curate the noise. Spiralling out of control, we gravitate to the bite-sized headline.

Lacking interest in context, we are too impatient to go deeper. Like fast food, we consume information and move on, having forgotten what crap we engulfed.

The internet can make your brain swell so big that it squeezes out the need for interpretation. Nothing sticks nor lasts longer than a Twitter trend. Consuming less and understanding more seems to be the only antidote.


A return to trusted sources

In a time of chaos, those that provide structure and synthesis re-emerge. Trusted publications like The New York Times or Wall Street Journal become bulwarks of fact-checked news where we can believe what we read. Meanwhile, confidence in social media sources is sinking.

We can’t call ‘fake news’ to everything we disagree with. Such criticism undermines the credibility of opposing viewpoints that help weed out bias. Curation is still human and analytical; beware the bots.

 

Permanent voyeurism

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The exhibitionist plays her role and lives up to the internet’s stage of expectations. Like robots, we feign surprise at the latest occurrence of routine deja vu. 
 
We walk into our own cameras to take selfies while we move on camera recorded from CCTV above. Even the faintest nook can’t escape the ubiquitous photograph. The invisible fence amplifies a sea of caginess.



Inspection is self-inflicted

Says director Gus Hosein of Privacy International: “if the police wanted to know what was in your head in the 1800s, they would have to torture you. Now they can just find it out from your devices.”
 
The maw of Orwellian watchability is here, in our pockets and from above. The cameras render us into thoughtless lemmings of time.
 
We are the watched, watching the watchers survey conspicuous lands.

In the blink of an eye…

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Photo by Wells Baum

That’s how subtleties move along, transparent, through the chaos of abundant information for which the likes of Facebook and Twitter sell our eyeballs to the attention merchants.

As John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing, “seeing comes before words.” Images overpower our digital world. Video maximizes these stitched images. People lose interest in thinking by themselves and using their imagination.

Said color photography pioneer William Eggleston: “Words and pictures don’t — they’re like two different animals. They don’t particularly like each other.”

Showing speaks louder than telling. One can intuit a concept quicker with a visual cue more so than a verbalized one.

The first taste is with your eyes. But what you perceive in your mind’s eye is what empowers an agile interpretation.

Win back your attention by turning your screen gray 📱⬜👀

The variety of colors on our smartphone screens pop like candy. As advertiser Bruce Barton wrote in his 1925 book In The Man Nobody Knows, “The brilliant plumage of the bird is color advertising addressed to the emotions.”

We tap into Instagram, scroll through a few photos, and return to the home screen to bounce off to other apps. And then we repeat the process again in a mindless fashion.

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After a while, we start to lose all conscious brain power. We fly between apps like we’re hitting buttons at the casino. The variable rewards keep us spinning in a ludic loop. Technology undermines our attention by bombarding our senses with a surfeit of stimuli that lights up like a Christmas tree.


How can we win back our focus in the distraction era?

Turn it gray. That’s right: we need to dull our screens to bore our senses. Turning the phone grayscale doesn’t make it dumb, it just makes it less attractive. Writes Nellie Bowles in the New York Times:

I’m not a different person all of a sudden, but I feel more in control of my phone, which now looks like a tool rather than a toy. If I unlock it to write an email, I’m a little less likely to forget the goal and tap on Instagram. If I’m waiting in line for coffee, this gray slab is not as delightful a distraction as it once was.

Want to give your thumbs a break and regain some attention? Study the instructions on Lifehacker on how to turn your screen grayscale.

Your vocation chooses you

We all start out with a dream, a goal of someone or something we want to emulate. We keep that dream close, putting up bedroom posters and memorizing phrases that propel us to keep pushing toward our goal.

But then something else happens along the way? The creative gods tell us to do something else instead.

“The grind is not glamorous.”

Casey Neistat wanted to be a filmmaker, another Spielberg that entertained the masses. But he didn’t have enough money nor resources. So he chased the dream for ten years and succeeded: he entered Cannes and won some awards etc. until one day he realized he was pursuing the wrong end. “Fuck it,” he said. “I just want to make internet videos.”

See, when we hunt down goals, we usually get redirected to something else that’s more personal. Technology broke down all the barriers to traditional creativity, production, and distribution. YouTube is Neistat’s movie theater.


Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Sure, imitate at first and get really good — everything is practice. But we shouldn’t forget to reflect and dive deeper into a passion that excites us the most. As Jim Carrey said, ‘your vocation chooses you.’

Don’t fight what’s natural even if no one else is doing it yet. Give in to the original inclinations and push onward.

Remember to frame that vacation photo

Photo by Wells Baum

If you want to remember a vacation, you’re almost better off framing a picture rather than just posting it on your Instagram feed.

According to recent research, owning a physical photo is more likely to encourage someone to share their experience with others. It turns out that digital images are terrible cues.

“Back in the old days, we’d wait until we finished a roll of film and then bring it to the store to get printed. So waiting for the pictures kept the experience top of mind. Then, we’d take the pictures around to our friends one by one (or group by group) and get to share our experience over and over again. Now, we simply post it on social media once and we’re done.”


However, it’s not all digital media’s fault. It’s also our dwindling attention spans driven by the urge to consume what’s next. To echo Om Malik in a recent New Yorker piece: “We have come to a point in society where we are all taking too many photos and spending very little time looking at them.”

Apps like Timehop and Facebook’s “One year ago today” feature attempt to revitalize old posts to conjure up past memories. I personally recommend reviewing “On this Day” in Day One journal, not just for vacation recall but also to gain perspective on all life’s milestones, ups, and downs.

Whether it’s in the form of a framed photo, a souvenir, or relived Facebook post, you can extend any fond memory with subtle reminders.

A crisis in boredom

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Remember what it was like to be bored before the internet spread its wings of distraction?

The newbies won’t confess. With everything available to them at their thumbs, they’ll never know a world where people once stared at walls for nothing. Magazines at the dentist’s office will remain untouched, replaced by the rectangular glow of entertainment on handheld devices.


But the adults aren’t any better. We confuse busyness with checking email, answering texts, viewing Instagrams, or looking up stocks.

Everyone is suffering at the mercy of accelerated time, of chasing the closest dopamine hit to avoid dealing with the ennui of the present. We busy ourselves going somewhere, overlooking the serenity of what is near and remaining hooked on a ludic loop to numb the pain of idleness.

A surfeit of meaning

We’re consuming too much and paying attention too little, especially when it comes to bits and bytes.

Consumption eviscerates meaning. How many TED talks can you watch before getting bored of the same didactic stories? Writes Eliot on his BearLamp blog:

“When you watch your first video, it’s pretty new, it’s unique and insightful. The second delivers the same. And the fourteenth? It doesn’t matter how interesting this one is, it’s probably not the same wonderful feeling as the first video. It’s getting to be the same delivery of information. Despite being exciting, it’s also getting old. It’s losing its meaning…”


Humans starve for meaning, but it ebbs as soon as we get it. So we share it with others in an attempt to extend its relevancy and maximize our own life’s compass. But the audience is too busy or too jaded to care.

“If you don’t like what someone is sharing, posting – how someone is trying to get attention. You are saying, what is meaningful to you is not meaningful to me.”

Whether it’s Facebook or TED, the narrative about ourselves gets lost in the shuffle of inane abundance. We grow immune to meaning because everyone’s asking for it. The screen attention economy excites people and then turns them off; novelty drains with any platform.

The ludic loop numbs attention until the marketplace of ideas refreshes it once more.

Staring into distraction 📲

The smartphone is a vehicle for distraction.

Statistics show that smartphone distraction kills productivity, on top of the fact that we’re already scatterbrained: our minds wander 47% of the time.

The phone is also a bandaid for anxiety. We cradle the device like a baby, holding it in anticipation of the next buzz so we tend to its loneliness and release ourselves from the maw of boredom.

How can we live in the now if we’re stuck in a ludic loop, anticipating the next variable reward in a perpetual bottomless feed? We are forever hooked to staring into a rectangular glow of external stimuli, caught between texts, shopping lists, and other mind-grabbing dopamine stimulants.

Digital hijacks human attention, giving us the memory of a fish. Even the slightest act of noticing helps us step outside the aquarium to avoid the social imitations of mindlessness.

Borders by VSCO

In its never-ending endeavor to augment mobile photography and enhance digital art, VSCO added Borders to its app today.

The new feature allows VSCO X users to frame their images with 17 different color options. You can see some of my first efforts below.

Filters aren’t dead. Nor are the wall decorations. Kudos to VSCO for giving its users the tools to create and keep experimenting. Never mundane, always interesting.

Sean Parker: Facebook exploits a “vulnerability in human psychology”

Social platforms are casinos, and likes, replies, comments, shares, etc. are the poker chips. We are addicted to social currency on top of our psychological desire to solve for loneliness.

The main reason I blog is to get away from the hyper-activeness and dopamine-hitting fast food of social media, so I can slow down and gather my thoughts.

How often do you get stuck in the ludic loop?

Seeking an objective point of view

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Photo by Wells Baum

We are obsessed with the first-person because we live in a culture that emphasizes the individual. The selfie generation makes “I” the predominant jargon for almost everything we post on social media and talk about in real life.

Me-ness has shrouded our ability to step outside the self and see the world objectively. It’s not all about us. We view ourselves in the reflection of other people. The looking glass self is external. Writes Adam Price in defense of third person.


It worries me that we may be slowly losing the cultural ability or inclination to tell stories in third person. Why does this matter? Because, I believe, third-person narration is the greatest artistic tool humans have devised to tell the story of what it means to be human.

“I think therefore I am.”

Our inner-narrative predicts how we’ll act in real life. It controls the outer stage of actions. As narrators, we can be more thoughtful of how to talk to about ourselves despite the egotism reinforced by the dizzying pace of status updates. We find deeper meaning when we can see and express a world bigger than ourselves.

We constantly divide our attention between the first- and third-person points of view, between desiring the shiny object in front of us and figuring out what it means for us to take it: who else wants it, what we have to do to get it, and whether it’s worth taking it from them.

In Defense of Third Person

Words still matter 


There was a moment when marketers thought words didn’t matter, that the future was speaking through images.

But then everybody’s images started looking the same. The Instagram feed looked like a giant pile of sameness where anyone could be a photographer and upload a beautiful picture.

Snapchat then ushered in the video game and all of a sudden, copycats followed. Facebook’s algorithm started to favor video. Instagram introduced Stories and Live. People could share their thoughts without a keyboard.


But if there’s anything Twitter shows us, words matter more than ever. The US president and the ‘rocket man’ tease nuclear war. While images and video are propaganda, it is words that beget action; they are volatile, easily copy-pasted and bent into echo chambers to paint fraudulent stories of intent.

If we want to awe someone, we choose static and moving images. But if we ‘re going to poke someone, we select text.

Words are game changers. Not only do they provide context to an empty visual, but they also control the inner-narrative that ultimately influences external decisions. Choose them with care.