|"Divide & Conquer"|
12" x 12" mixed media on canvas
It's not hard to see how this happened. Our brilliance with algorithms has produced unique, individualized Internet experiences for each one of us. So it's entirely possible to check your preferences so you never have to read a dissenting viewpoint, negative news headline or world tragedy. And this tendency to live this way is worse for our wealthy populations, some of which have insulated themselves right out of the realm of common sense.
Take Kanye West, for example. The recent TMZ video where he speaks to a room full of seasoned reporters as if they are first year college students attending a guest lecture shows just how far removed from society the man has become. Kanye is more in love with the cage of cameras surrounding his platform than reality. Tthe rest of the world is merely an echo chamber.
In fact, many of us are like this. Our age of technology has given us all equal opportunity access to fifteen seconds of fame at any given time. In response, we have become Narcissus, fascinated with our own reflections on selfie-sticks. The tone deaf diatribes that keep trending are the result of talking to ourselves in a social media mirror we tweak until all that's left is our own voice.
So why have some of us become sleepwalkers in sheltered, immaculate cages feigning the posture of the culturally awake? The same reason why most horrors happen in our world: money.
Back when the Internet was in its infancy, being online consisted of you and a bunch of other people like myself getting their geek on. There were no online purchases, subscriber lists, post likes or followers. All that changed when the industry leaders applied the logic of "Survival of the Fittest" to marketing strategy in an effort to monetize the Internet.
That's how you get a fringe lunatics like Alex Jones on prime time television spouting conspiracy theories not long ago. It's the result of a bunch of media executives in various offices shining a spotlight on the dark corners of the online community we took seriously to create revenue. And as repulsed as the public claimed to be, 3.53 million people still tuned in. Even worse, some of those 3.53 million actually believe that what Alex Jones says is gospel.
Sure we live in the information age, but that doesn't mean all information is created equal. Our manufactured click-bait is dangerous because it produces false idols of superficial living, media spin & self-appointed monarchs we mimic to be included. We've progressed beyond emperors with no clothes, ladies & gents. Now we've got emperors pulling publicity stunts just to peddle high-end merchandise.
So at a time when abundance seems so readily available, our people have never been more miserable. Nor more isolated. We are a far cry from having to survive on only our two hands in the wilderness. Yet the idea persists that in order to be truly happy, we also have to be the craftiest, wiliest, or most cutthroat to validate our existence through social media.
Our society hasn't prepared us for inevitable crash that comes from living your life onscreen anymore than it prepared us for the 2009 recession caused by allowing banks to play recklessly with our money. Instead, it tells us that something is wrong with you if you even consider the possibility that living in a bubble this way is a problem.
It's come to the point where a person saying they don't have a Facebook account results in gasps of horror that individuals like this still exist. Recently, I had to remind several executives during a business meeting that not everyone can afford a computer or smartphone, a fact found nowhere in their impressive portfolios of statistical analysis. Years ago, The Sims just was a game. Now everyone is being pressured to live an online life that we devote more time to than our actual one.
The voice of the heart can easily be lost in this bombardment.
Without backing of our hearts, our actions become mechanical. Our lives are automated films where we respond only to predictable external stimuli, namely fear or anger. Days and nights, seasons and years become blurs that we barely remember. This is how we become sleepwalkers and lose sight of the present moment.
So for yourself and your sanity, I'm asking you to think about how much time you spend actually living vs. how much time you spend with your eyes glued to a screen. If you have anxiety over not checking your phone every five minutes, perhaps it's time to take a break.
I referenced The Matrix earlier for a reason. The characters in the film are jacked into a virtual world they didn't create and are forced to uphold. The difference here is that we have a choice. We don't require Morpheus to wake us up from illusion.
All we have to do is turn off a device.
Be well on your path.