the change and chase

Am now in the midst of reading Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. It’s interesting that I picked up Reasons to Stay Alive at the time when I felt depressed, resonated with it, and loved his writing. However, when Notes on a Nervous Planet was published in 2018, I wasn’t compelled to read it because anxiety wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Only recently I realised that the tendency to overthink and worry excessively is not “normal” (what is normal anyway??!), recognising those as anxious feelings.

This post has some initial thoughts sparked by early chapters of the book.

Post status: Incomplete

Epistemic status: High confidence of my own experience; Mid-low confidence of everything else as I’ve not really let this sit or thoroughly edited my thoughts.

One of the topic in the early chapters of the book is about how the world is changing at a rapid pace. (Indeed the world has changed into something quite unthinkable just 8 to 9 months ago.) The change AND pace of change in technologies are contributing to our anxiety. Social media. Automation. Our impact on the environment. The news cycle. What have you.

Technology in the most basic sense means tools or methods. The way of doing things. This may seem quite obvious, but in my head, using tech has just alluded to the Internet, smartphones, smart gadgets and apps etc. Something digital and forward. But technology simply means the tools we use to get things done. It’s what we use to obtain our basic needs, and not so basic needs. Food. Social connections. Physical safety. Whoever learns to leverage on better technology to create value for others in ways they can’t do it themselves would then be able to demand value in exchange for it.

This made me think about the hedonic treadmill. The chase to want to keep up and do things better by looking for what’s the next tech product/ service to buy.

There’s a side of me that wants to be more zen/chill/less anxious/content. but I’m always getting drawn back into social media for whatever reasons I give myself. In those moments of scrolling, I find myself wanting more, craving to purchase something new and shiny to improve my life. In those interactions with the apps, I’m exposed to the targeted ads, filtered posts of things people have and places they’ve been, clickbait titles… It makes me feel like I need to have those things to satisfy this nagging feeling that ‘my life will be so much better if I have this.’ It’s more like an itch to be satisfied? Not a state of mind I’d like to have but I keep going back.

After a few tries of digital detox by completely disconnecting from social media and going cold turkey for months at a time, I thought I’d have been weaned off the ‘addictive’ nature of it. Now I take the less extreme version of it so that I can still keep in contact with friends in this rather isolating times (where we’re still mostly working remotely). I’ve added some friction by not having FB/ Twitter apps and I’ve consciously tried to limit my time on apps like Reddit and IG by setting limits on my phone. The unexpected consequence is that I’m always asking for more time. It’s like children begging their parents for more screen time, but this time it’s as simple as tapping on the “plus” button to get 30 mins or 1 hr more of time on a device.

So technology has shaped how we do things for as long as humans have been around. But humans also have the power to shape technology to serve us the way we want it to work. Why are we allowing it to make us anxious, depressed, and feeling bad about ourselves? I’m not sure. The way technology is rapidly changing and diverging seems invoke this feeling of needing to ‘catch up’ for fear of becoming irrelevant.

It’s a balancing act. We do get benefits from staying connected. The random comments and conversations that might spark from a post with someone you don’t talk to on a regular basis but still care about. Getting introduced to new content or new products that could actually be useful. But reaping these benefits requires sieving through noise. Lots of mind-numbing noise. Is it worth it?

To further examine my need to stay connected to the mind-numbing stuff.. Firstly, I’m curious about what’s new, and want to read interesting thoughts out there by people in the fields of my interest. I hope I’ve curated and sliced down who I follow enough (perhaps I need to review it more regularly because it seems a little bit out of control again).

Secondly, I want to know relevant new information. The rate of progress of technology feels insanely fast that everyone is at a different rate of ‘caught up-ness’. I believe not a single person on this planet can be on the forefront of everything. But as a product person, I do need to use different products and get a feel of what’s out there, what works or what does not work.

I notice that I feel a degree of helplessness and frustration if I can’t understand something and require help. I’m not sure if those left behind from the digital push like our parents and grandparents feel the same. How bizarrely different the world looks to them from the time they were children? Now they rely on us to teach them how to navigate around the world of smartphones and apps and self service check out kiosks. Even personally, the feeling of never being able to catch up to know about how tech truly works, how algorithms that sort of run our lives work, how to build/read codes can be anxiety-inducing for me. Like I’m always playing a never ending game of catch-up with no time to train for it.

The initual conclusion to this I can think of is that with all of my finite time, energy and resources, I have to prioritise what I want to be ‘caught up’ on. Decide what I’m okay with not knowing.

Another note to self: I find that I’m being drawn into mind-numbing acts of scrolling during periods of downtimes when I have little energy left to do more active things. Perhaps it’s getting used to doing nothing, and resting. This book I came across somewhere, How to do nothing by Jenny Odell would probably be quite useful.

Share: Twitter Facebook