Cyber-Space: the Behavior, the Bull, the Bully

Once I was let down into a deep well into which chokedamp had settled, and nearly lost my life. The deeper I was immersed in the invisible poison, the less capable I became of willing measures of escape from it. And in just this condition are those who toil or dawdle or dissipate in crowded towns, in the sinks of commerce or pleasure. (John Muir) 

Our use of technology, looking at screens and social media has been around long enough now that study results are beginning to come in, and the results do not bode well for us canaries in the coal mine. Gas is leaking and we are clueless. 

Hours of scrolling through other people’s picture-perfect lives (thank you (?) Pinterest!), being available 24/7(iPhone or iCrazy?), and round the clock news, feeding us images of war, waste and want, leaves us depleted and confused emotionally, physically and spiritually. We hear and see so much information that it’s impossible to process it all. 

And yet, still we try. We don’t shut it off even though the deeper we immerse ourselves the less capable we become of escaping it. Maybe we can’t. Maybe we’re drowning in an invisible poison we can’t see, feel or smell. We have no idea, the damage we’re doing to ourselves, our brains and dare I say, even our souls. 

Perhaps that sounds a bit dramatic but is it really?

 The Behavior

From Dr. Eva’s File

Fred sat in my office looking for help with stress management. It wasn’t his idea; it was his wife’s. She had threatened to leave him if he didn’t seek help. During the one-hour visit, Fred checked his incoming text messages five times and answered two of the four phone calls, saying first, “Do you mind? This is important.”

Does this sound familiar? Oh, we might think to ourselves, we would never do that in a doctor’s office!  Except for that one lady who had to be asked to put her phone away as she walked down the hall to her room and the gynecologists office. Maybe that’s not you but they are out there. What about when you’re out to dinner with friends or coffee with a girlfriend or at your kids soccer game or at the family dinner table? Are we more worried about getting the perfect picture of our plate than the company we’re with? Has being available to everyone else via text messaging become more important than watching your daughter play basketball or your son’s piano recital? 

Trust me, I’m guilty too. That invisible poison can’t be seen but it can sure show up in our behavior. 

Back to our friend Fred: 

From the history I was able to get, it turned out Fred, who had an “important” job, spent 12 hours a day working, including during his hour-long commute, allowing little time for exercise, self-care or downtime. 

I asked him, “What do you think you would have done if you were in this office 20 years ago when smartphones, e-mail and such did not exist?” He thought for a minute before answering, “Probably pay attention and learn how to relax!”

I then explained to Fred the consequences of an overactivated stress response system that does not have the chance to get a break, rest or relax: depression and anxiety, heart disease and hypertension, inflammatory disorders, musculoskeletal problems, memory loss, immune compromise…”Shall I continue?” I asked. (Your Brain on Nature by Dr. Eva M. Selhub pg 49) 

Bottom line? Don’t be a Fred.  Put down your phone. 

We lose valuable IQ points through the act of texting and email. The ping of notices on our phones destroy creativity, leading us down a dead-end road, blank canvas and blinking cursor. We lose profitable performance at work, treasured time with family and our recall ability is cut by half. 

Fear Fred’s future. Put down your device. 

The Bull

Scroll through any social media medium and it doesn’t take long to get the sense that everyone else’s lives are spot on. You often walk away feeling as if your kids are the only ones who mess up, your husband is the only one who snores, and you are the only one with baby fat from your last pregnancy. Did I mention my youngest is 16? 

Flipping through social media can cause problems you didn’t even know you needed to have. You’re happy with your life until you’re not because of what you think is someone else’s picture perfect. Don’t always believe what you see. 

Take for example Rachel Hollis of Girl, Wash Your Face New York Times best seller fame. She posted this picture of her and her husband on Instagram with the caption: Today on the podcast @mrdavehollis and I are talking about how quarantine has affected our, ahem, “make out sessions.” Yes. We went there. If you’re in a relationship the RISE Together podcast is just for you. 

That was on April 30th

Then, on June 8th, just 39 days later, same pic, much different message: 

Don’t think I’m picking on the Hollis’. It’s very sad that their marriage is ending. I’m not saying to put all your business out on social media for all to see and have an opinion on. But for the love, don’t talk about a “make out sesh” when the reality is your marriage is the Titanic and has been sinking for quite some time. Warning: Iceberg straight ahead!

People’s comments went from sad to mad, grieved to deceived, feeling duped and having wasted their money and time on the books, retreats and podcasts that was meant to show people how to be just like them because they are normal people just like us. 

Do no harm, but you can keep your bull.  (And using the same pic? That’s just weird.)

This is just the one example I happened to notice on Instagram. There are so many more. I’m not sure who is more foolish, the ones who think they can keep all the plates spinning or the ones who are in awe of all the spinning plates. 

And the poison just keeps seeping. 

The Bullying

Have you noticed lately how many more experts we currently have living in the United States? A pandemic happens and suddenly everyone has M.D. after their name. Racial tensions are high and presto, people have a degree in sociology: the study and explanation of society and human interaction. 

Who knew? Social media is filled with doctors, lawyers, PhD’s in sociology and anthropology, and authorities on race relations. All manner of opinions. All opinions are, of course, based on solid facts from Facebook finds. Wait. What? Facebook isn’t the best resource for fact finding?

When really all they have is a Bachelor’s in Bullying. 

Keyboard Warriors who can rip apart a person they don’t even know faster than Superman can fly. That speeding bullet kills relationships, friendships and families; leaving them beaten, bloodied and bruised. All in the name of thinking you’re right about something you may have no idea about. And yet, they click their keys, spew their venom, close their computer and care not the damage they’ve done. 

Warrior indeed. Whimp more like it. 

According to Dr. Eva SelhubSocial media was supposed to link us together. Yet, for all the talk of connectivity via gadgets, it does not seem to be translating into a more caring world, at least not in North America. The ability to exhibit an emotional response to someone else’s distress have dropped 49 percent since 1980. Perspective taking, an intellectual understanding of another person’s situational and individual circumstances, has declined by 34 percent. (Your Brain on Nature pg 43) 

In other words, we stop caring about people and care more about our personal perspective, purview, and productivity. 

Compassion be damned. I’ll show them because I know I’m right! Who cares if I don’t know you! You’re an idiot, obviously!!

What a sad existence it must be to be a keyboard warrior, an internet bully, always pushing people around in a pretend world. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

How do I even wrap this up? None of us control the bull or the bullying. But we can control the behavior. It may not be as easy as you think. According the Dr. Eva…

Although not official diagnoses yet, “Internet addiction” and “digital-device addiction” are terms batted around by the medical community. Currently, (this book was published in 2012 so I imagine this number is higher) 42 percent of Americans flat-out agree with the statement that they “cannot live without” their mobile phones and more than half of adults also state that both they and their kids spend too much time online. (Your Brain on Nature pg 48) 

Addicted? I’m not addicted. You’re addicted! 

So, the behavior is to not be like Fred and instead put down my phone. If Facebook makes me furious, why not give myself the freedom to take some time and spend it with real family and friends instead of virtual ones? If Instagram feels more like Image-gram, then why keep scrolling when I can be strolling through nature instead? 

Control the behavior. It’s what I’ll be doing in the month of July as I take a respite from all things social media. I’ll be writing about the experience of the experiment as honestly as I can. No one likes to think they’re addicted to something, especially the pings on a phone from a message or the likes or the comments….they say it’s like a hit of dopamine. Maybe that’s the invisible gas of our day. Sigh…

Finding sacred in the simple. It’s been my mantra for quite some time. That’s where I’ll be if you need me.

And making sure the canary still sings. 

kw

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