I’ll be honest, this is a topic that I have always wanted to explore based on personal experiences and thoughts. I have been an avid reader and a bookworm for a long time. Since my first picture book in kindergarten probably and I have always loved them. That interest and love for the written word only grew as time passed. They kept me company when the real world was too much to handle and became my refuge. I loved books more than people. They were less complicated, easy to get through, and never judged. They were my great escape. Took me to far away places where I got to live the lives of the characters, walk through dark alleys and eery forests. They took me on roller coaster rides of emotions and taught me more about life than any school or friend or family ever could. There was a time when I read a new novel every 3 days.
But as time passed, I noticed that my priorities had changed. I had given up reading novels in favor of schoolwork and a new thing called the internet. A further self-analysis made me realize that more than school work, it was the new found curiosity for surfing through the great internet that distracted me more.
I used to be the person who loved reading newspapers and books in my free time. But now, I spent every waking minute and free time glued to a screen spending time on stuff that was in no way doing me any good. From spending hours on social media scrolling through news feeds and trends to playing online games, I had completely distance, no, forgotten about books completely.
The advent of the internet and especially the social networks and associated businesses like online games and platforms have taken over our lives in ways we could never have imagined. Most people don’t need to be told they’re addicted to technology and social media. If reaching for your cell phone first thing in the morning doesn’t tell you as much, multiple scientific studies and books will. And lately, the people responsible for this modern day addiction have come out admitting that this was their plan all along. Recently, Sean Parker, Silicon Valley bad boy and Facebook’s first president, told Axios in an interview that the service “literally changes your relationship with society,” and “probably interferes with productivity in weird ways.” And, he added, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Facebook’s main goal is to get and keep people’s attention, Parker said. ”The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’”
Attention, he said, was fueled by “a little dopamine hit every once in a while,” in the form of a like or a comment, which would generate more content, in the forms of more likes and comments.
“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”Parker said that the inventors of social media platforms, including himself, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, “understood consciously” what they were doing. “And we did it anyway.”
This is the principle behind every social network and online games today. They give their users a false sense of hope and satisfaction. Our brains are wired to release chemicals like serotonin and dopamine which result in the so-called feeling of satisfaction and/or happiness. These chemicals are by nature designed to be released naturally when triggers are triggered. Triggers like meditation, exercise, winning a deal you had been working on for months, holding your child for the first time, intercourse, etc. What social networks and online games have done is mimic these triggers in the form of social validation. Teenagers who use facebook feel the release of these chemicals when the photo they posted get 100 likes, making them feel like validated members of a pack. Girls feel happy and overjoyed when the popular hot guy likes or comments on their picture.
In short, our lives have turned into a large set of mini-chases for dopamine or serotonin. Social validation and the feeling of being in a pack is our drug and social networks and online games like PubG are the drug dealers. And we are all addicted which in turn makes the drug dealers very rich people. In this chase for fakes, We have forgotten how the natural pleasures of life felt. We have forgotten how it feels to get lost in a world of an authors’ making, to live a mini life inside a book, to learn from characters and their mistakes and strengths and weaknesses.
I have developed something called a productivity factor for my personal use. It’s not a general thing (I don’t know if something with the same name exists, this is something I use in my life). It’s quite simple actually. Our lives are short and we need to spend every second of our time alive like it was out last. So, Everything I spent my time on has to give me something in return, spiritually or physically…….in whatever form it may be. But the return should be something of value. For example, If I spent an hour listening to a podcast, and if at the end of it, I feel I have learned something of value, I call it a value task. At the same time, If I spent hours on a SimCity game building a city and repairing stuff and earning coins which have no consequence in the real world, I call it a zero-sum task (ZST…..like GST but a toxic waste).
Our time is the most valuable thing we have and spending it on ZSTs is actually the most disrespectful thing one can do. Our lives need to matter. We need to learn and understand that we are all here for a reason. To lead, to be an example, to help, to guide, to be there for others, to be human.
I strongly urge you to understand the impact that the digital revolution has brought into our lives. It is a great tool in the right hands when used for the right purpose with the right intentions. Otherwise, it is the greatest weapon of destruction mankind has ever come in contact with. Try to keep a distinction between real life and the digital world.
I have recently started to find my way back into books and let me tell you, it has been the cure to all my problems. Its helped me cope with stress at work, personal issues (most of which apparently stemmed from my digital life), and even helped me get a fresh perspective on things. And I tell you, the joy of going through a novel, going through the elaborate world someone’s imagination created is the best feeling I have felt in my life.
I hope what I have written makes a difference in someone’s life. If not, At least I have said it out loud, and I am happy.
Jesil K Jose
Jesil is a 23-year-old engineer and entrepreneur with a great love for good art and cultures. He is a bookworm through and through and enjoys reviewing books in his spare time. He is also an amateur blogger and writes on topics that make him curious. He enjoys reading novels and self-help books when he isn't coding or running a company.