End times

Bleak.

That’s the only word I came up with today. Write something on your blog, Mary, I told myself. Maybe it will be therapeutic.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become increasingly dependent on the Internet to soothe my restless mind. I lose myself in a labyrinth of interesting articles, the antics of friends from around the world, silly videos, TV series on Netflix. I quell my boredom and at the same time avoid doing anything of note, including blogging. Oh yes, I do emerge for yoga and some running, I do read actual books to the tune of one or two a week. But still. The rest of the time? Drugged.

Until lately. It’s no fun any more. Everything is so awful. Everyone is yelling. And since last Friday, every day just seems to bring us one step closer to the apocalypse. Is it even legal to gag the EPA? Or is the “liberal media” telling me a whopper? Who’s lying, who’s exaggerating? What the fuck is really happening? Can this be real?

I marched on Saturday, with loads of lovely people, everyone was so polite, so optimistic, so motivated. All over the world, we marched. We agreed — we must hold one another up. We must care for our planet.

But what is unfolding in front of our unbelieving eyes is instead the opposite. There is no reason to support one another! People should be responsible for pulling their own selves up! They should stop complaining and start working! There is no reason to care for our planet. It will be here long after we die! We must achieve. We must take advantage of the rich abundance of the natural world. That’s intelligent. It’s our God-given right! We have a duty to make progress, to continuously grow the GDP, to use the resources for ourselves and to build personal wealth. Those are our American values.

I despair that the story lines have become so entrenched that dialog is no longer possible. That this will end in lives lost, hearts broken, landscapes obliterated, a broken planet. Earth will survive, you can be sure of that. Cockroaches will not suffer, nor bacteria. But humans, as a species? It’s not looking good. Might feel fine now, to be rich, to have achieved, to have built wealth and comfort on the pain and suffering of the less fortunate and the bounty of the earth, but in another hundred, two hundred years, what will humanity look like? What world will our children’s children be inhabiting, if they are even around? I shudder.

I should buy some live chickens, stockpile some rice, canned salmon and vitamin C. Good thing I have backpacking survival equipment. I hope my cat Minnie doesn’t eat the chickens. I’ll need some cat food, too. I should make a list.

I need to take a tech vacation, too. Internet rehab. Otherwise my brain is going to fry itself out with post-apocalyptic nightmares. I don’t sleep well these days.

Thank God we’re moving to Australia. Did I mention that? Yes, we’re moving to Melbourne.

But when I get off the Internet, and I feel untethered. It’s like a craving. What happened? Has anyone sent me an e-mail?

Can anyone tell me how to stop this, how to exit the cycle of despair?

Maybe if I try to blog every day, a single, beautiful thing. Maybe that would help.

Tech detox

I know I said I was going into hibernation. Even though it’s summer, and the root of that word is “hiver” or winter. Well, it’s winter in Australia, isn’t it?

But this is just too good to pass up. There’s an article in the NYT today about internet addiction, and how Silicon Valley firms are debating whether they have any responsibility for what increasingly appears to be a true physical addiction to the stimulation of going online. Continue reading

A big fat F

I’m reading “The Shallows” right now (thank you Matt, my local independent bookseller, for another eye-opening tome). It addresses how the Internet is changing our brains. Did you know that you read differently online? Eye-tracking studies have shown that the vast majority of people read the first two or three full lines of text on a web page,

and then

their

eyes

drop

down

a few

lines,

quickly.

Then they may once again scan about halfway across the page

for a couple more lines, before finally letting their eyes continue

down

the

left-hand

side

fast,

to the

bottom.

Their eyes

make

a “F”

pattern.

(“F” for Fail?)

Avg. time on ANY page?

19-27 seconds.

Bye.

Pop that bubble

Eli Pariser did a Ted talk recently about how Google and Facebook and so on track just about everything you do online and feed this data into algorithms that personalize the way you experience the Internet. What you see and who you interact with are invisibly decided for you based on your past preferences, and you probably are not even aware of it. Or if you are aware of it, you’re also aware that there’s not much you can do about it.

See, you’re surfing in a “filter bubble” surrounded by people just like you and things you’ve already expressed an interest in, and you’re increasingly cut off from differing viewpoints, unbiased information and new ideas. Here’s a link to the video: it’s worth a watch, if you have nine minutes. Continue reading