Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Because I'm just outsourcing the reading material on this blog all the damn time now, I wanted to share a link to an article.  (And yes, I realize that probably none of you will read it.  It's cool!  It makes me feel better to have posted it, regardless.)

Is the Web Driving Us Mad?, from last week's Newsweek.

It is relevant, it is interesting, it is the reason that I am on a severe Facebook diet right now.

It is also highly ironic that I am pointing this out to you on a blog and asking you to read it on a screen.  But the information is good, and it gives an authoritative voice to what I've always said about smartphones.  I get a lot of crap from people for not having one, but my standard response is that I don't want the internet on my phone because if I had it, I'd find a reason to use it.



  1. still in the reading process... but before I forget as this article takes a) some time to read and b) sure some time to ponder before commenting on it:

    WHAT A F-ing TIMING!!! Just today I received my iphone ... after my 6yr old nokia decided to break and my as old ipod will soon follow I gave in to the dark side


  2. Well, of course I was going to read this!

    On the one hand, this makes me feel better for continuing to hold out on getting a smartphone until dumbphones are no longer sold. I always feel like I sound like a crackpot when I tell people who want a longer justification than "I don't want one" that I feel I'll become dumber if I can Google every single thing that's on my mind rather than letting it rattle around to see if I can come up with an answer. I recognize a certain level of device dependency, absolutely--and that's exactly why I don't want it to go any further. And exactly why I ultimately want a job that requires me to get away from my desk for a certain amount of time every week. With no smartphone and no desktop, I can't screw around on the Internet all day.

    I can go even further on the crackpot thing: I know that Internet usage is not the prime mover of Alzheimer's, because neither of my grandmas ever even LOOKED at the Internet. But with that genetic pool already working against me, I would rather not continue to shrink my brain. I think when I say it out loud it makes me seem like I feel superior to smartphone users, but that's not it at all. I'm freaked out by them--I'm freaked out about what constant Internet usage/texting does to us socially, how it seems to degrade our use of language, how Internet porn affects the way men relate to actual women in the world...all things we've discussed (in person! yay!), but it's interesting to see that we're not making all this up.

    The Internet has also made it both easier to get your writing/creative work seen by the rest of the world, and almost impossible to get yourself paid for it. Which is unrelated, but popped into my head while reading it. Over the last year or so, I've listened to countless photographers (mostly online) talk about how the key to becoming successful is creating your "personal brand." I'm sure that's Marketing 101, but in this landscape what that means is your web presence. You have to devote so much of your time to crafting this identity for yourself so that you'll attract "the right clients" (i.e., the ones with money). So basically, you need to sell yourself as high-end in order to attract the small segment of the market that could make it possible for you to live off this career in a hugely saturated field. The more I've heard this same line and the more I've thought about it, the more I realize how crazy this is. If we're all acolytes of the idea of personal branding, and the only way to make money is to create a high-end brand, the failure rate is going to be huge. But part of our "identity" is supposed to be that we're well-off and you can't afford us unless you're prepared to spend two grand on photos of your family. It's untenable. It's why I had been planning on doing a major revamp of my website and then just stopped...because my choice seemed to be putting on a fake identity and then falling on my face, or continuing to shoot people who had little or no budget for photography, and just fitting that into my life because I love it and not because I need it to support me financially. Basically I had to stop obsessing over my web presence and what it meant to booking future shoots, and just accept what came my way.

    That said, obviously I just started a new blog. For now it feels different, though, because it's forcing me to crack open books and/or use the Internet as a research tool, and I can honestly say I feel I'm learning something useful every time I post on it. What I think I will struggle with is how to pull what I'm doing there offline and have it impact my actual life, so that I'm not just thinking of it in terms of web stats.

    I have written an effing book here, and I don't know why. You know what that means: time to get off the Internet and go to bed!

  3. Addendum: Does it officially confirm you as "Internet crazy" when your comments on a blog post are triple the length of the post itself?

  4. soooooooo much to read on here x)

    and noooo way does it conirm anything Melissa *ggg* I did that too - at least very long comments

    What I can say is: That my brain looks different from others in the frontal area - as I had a computer tomography (is that the right word in english?) because of my migranes - now is the question: What came first, the difference or the internet?? o.0 LOL

    I haven't yet digested it all. So I might come up with some more - be warned Becky ;)


  5. YAY FOR LONG COMMENTS!!!! Thank you both for reading this and I’m thrilled that you were both interested enough to want to talk about it. I really do find this sort of thing absolutely fascinating, and I feel it’s been a major part of my personal development throughout my early adulthood to have changed my views on the internet and its effectiveness/usefulness. It’s heartening in a lot of ways to see much of what we’ve experienced be discussed in the mainstream and given authority, even if most of what’s being talked about is depressing as hell…

    When I read that the brain looks different – as in, it is literally growing (and shrinking) in a way different from people who spend less time online – it freaked me out. Because I *know* my brain looks different now than it did six or seven years ago. I am 100% positive that I fall into the group of people who has spent enough time with various online media that I’ve rewired myself. No, scratch that. That the internet has rewired me. And THAT is my biggest concern: relinquishing control. Why should I give any outside source the power to fundamentally change the inside of my body? (And Sasha, that’s extremely interesting that you have physical proof that your brain looks different! I’m right there with you in wondering which came first?!)

    And YES, Melissa! A job that doesn’t force us to sit at a computer! What would my life be like if, starting back in late 2005, I’d never been chained to a desk?! Undoubtedly, it would be completely different…I even see huge differences in how I spend my time in the afternoons at home as opposed to in the mornings at work. I have to check myself at home, but at least I have the luxury of doing so. If I want to, I can stand up and walk outside, or pick up a book, or even just go into another room. It’s incredibly liberating, and yet it’s also terrifying that our generation is now talking about “liberation” in terms of having the option of not looking at a computer screen (and the willpower to follow through with it).

    I became concerned about my Facebook usage a few months ago. I wasn’t actively participating all that much, but I would compulsively log in dozens of times a day. Bored at work? Log into Facebook. Can’t think of a word? Don’t pull out a thesaurus; log into Facebook and forget what you’re doing in the first place. Just got back from the grocery store? Ugh, I don’t want to unload my car, so I’ll log into Facebook. I’ve developed similar compulsive habits in the past - putting on chapstick is the most obvious one that comes to mind; filling up glasses of water and drinking them any time I needed to pause my brain is another - but those habits were innocuous. Facebook is not innocuous. Nor is compulsive e-mail checking (which I also do), or any other repetitive online activity. As I once said in a similar discussion (on Facebook, ironically enough), it gives some disturbing insight into the human psyche that, for the first time in history, we have the bulk of all human knowledge readily available at all of our fingertips – a REMARKABLE resource that could be used for so much – and most of us (myself included) avoid all that in favor of reading short and grammatically inferior updates from our friends about what they ate for dinner last night.

    So I’m trying to change that about myself. :)

  6. (cont. because Blogger cut me off...)

    Melissa, I agree so much with everything you wrote. Especially the brand thing!!!! My God, it’s all bullshit! All of it! And why do we automatically believe that other people know better than we do? ALL of this is just being made up as we go along. And so far, what I’m seeing is that people expend an incredible amount of time and energy on things that get them nowhere; I applaud you for not redoing your site just because you thought you had to! I have spent SO MUCH time on various profiles trying to “make myself look good” and recently I’ve realize how stupidly worthless that is. I don’t want to spend my time creating a fake Becky online. I’d rather put that energy into the real Becky really enjoying her real life.

    And one last point on the smartphone – and I realize this is really bizarre timing, since you just got one, Sasha! – but it wasn’t until I saw it in black and white about the smartphone owning you that it really clicked *why* it upsets me so much when I’m out with friends and someone’s sitting there, tuning the rest of us out, playing on his/her phone. It comes back to that lack of control. And people can roll their eyes and say it’s “not that big of a deal” or whatever…but I think it is that big of a deal. If it wasn’t, people would be able to stop themselves, and I know a hell of a lot of people who can’t. I’d rather sidestep putting myself in that position in the first place…

    (Longest. Comment. Ever. This should have been my damn blog entry.)

  7. Isn't that so scary that we now feel we have to be liberated from something we didn't even know about for the first decade of our lives? I can hardly read "passages from the future" in books now that are written in a predictive text-speak, because I keep thinking, "What if we actually have to LIVE like this?"

    Totally agree about fiddling with phones in public. I always wonder what people are doing, because I'd say a decent percentage of my text messages are making plans to actually meet in person. So I tend to assume that if you're with me, and you can't get off your phone, you're making plans to hang out with someone else and you're thus not that interested in hanging out with me. But maybe it's just that the phone has become more interesting than ANYBODY.

    I bought that book "The Shallows" that was mentioned in the article; I'll pass it to you when I'm done!

    1. I sent you an e-mail earlier today covering some of this (and more!) but I did want to say that I have had the same thoughts about people on their phones more times than I can count! It's enough to give a person an inferiority complex. I mean, what? I'm THAT BORING to be around that you're reduced to looking at a screen instead?! But then maybe we're looking at it the wrong way and it's the other way around. Maybe when you spend your life looking at your phone, it's *you* who becomes too uninteresting to truly interact in real time...

      I don't know. But in any event, I'm already excited about reading The Shallows. :)