A Calm Storm

The blog of Sholeh Samadani Munion

Too much information

Facebook makes me unhappy.

Let me explain that.  In the last few months, I realized that the time I spend on the internet is split into two different categories.  The first is social networking like Facebook & Twitter, random entertainment sites, and things of that nature.  The second area is blogs, Flickr, educational sources, and the news.

It is the first area that really gets me, that makes me angry.  I do not feel good when I am spending time on sites in the first category.  Every day I feel more inclined to disengage.

Now, I’ve been bumming around the internet since I got my first AOL screen name in 1997 or so. I’m not against the internet, it is marvelous.

However, there is a subtle drag on my spirit when I read the Facebook news feed.  As a friend put it today, “I just want to live in the moment!”  I am living other people’s moments, over and over, in a stream of information that just doesn’t stop.  I don’t have my own stories anymore, and the stories that I DO have are uninteresting, banal, and incredibly lame.  I feel this insatiable need to know, but I don’t really need to know!

The second category makes me happy.  I like the creative side, I love the tools and education I come across on the internet.  There are so many positive things that have come about because of the development of the web.

A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 1938)

The internet is a tool, a piece of human creativity and knowledge, but it is becoming life for some.  We reference the collective as if it is alive, as if we are somehow obligated to keep feeding this machine simply because it exists.

I highly recommend Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget, it is a fascinating read and a wonderful encouragement to think about the history and modern-day trends of the Internet.

“[You are Not a Gadget] delivers a powerful reminder of the limits of the Web’s capacity to meet our needs-and its power to shape us to its will . . .” -Matthew Battles, The Barnes & Noble Review

I still have not figured out where my frustration is taking me.  I have friends who limit or delete their Facebook profiles, who refuse to even get an account.  I am stuck, in a way.  I use FB to inform, advertise, keep in touch with friends, and keep track of events.  Twitter has enabled me to communicate with friends that I wouldn’t normally have time to contact.  I am so entangled that deleting profiles is almost unthinkable.  Now I must take steps each day to reduce consumption, to slowly wean myself off the flow, and to live my life away from a computer as much as possible.

Stories are not created by sitting by myself in front of screen.  Real thought and contemplation does not happen in status updates and fleeting moments.

I am utterly overwhelmed and consumed by information.

Quite frankly, I’m exhausted.

O friend, the heart is the dwelling of eternal mysteries, make it not the home of fleeting fancies; waste not the treasure of thy precious life in employment with this swiftly passing world. Thou comest from the world of holiness – bind not thine heart to the earth; thou art a dweller in the court of nearness – choose not the homeland of the dust.
(Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 34)


11 thoughts on “Too much information

  1. i hear you. i’m on the fence.
    there are definitely people i’ve hidden specifically because of how i feel when i read their statuses… and yet there are other people i wish i lived near so that i could get to know them… their statuses have given me real insight to who they are in a way that i would never know from our chance meetings in large gatherings and conferences.

    a friend of mine recently told me she resisted the facebook craze specifically because she didn’t want people to have yet another reason not to call her. i thought that was brilliant… because really those phone conversations and in-person chats we have with soul-sisters and brothers are so much more enriching. but, then again, it’s brought me closer to my cousins or at least more up-to-date on their goings on… i know more than i could glean from our holiday dinners.

    thanks for writing your thoughts though!

  2. Sholeh, i love when you speak your mind – it’s direct, honest and gets us thinking. 🙂

    I’ve been reflecting in a similar vein too, and have lately tried to identify dichotomous modes of operation and thinking within my own sphere of existence. For me, it seems that every tool or social space I choose to place myself in will always have two processes underway – the disintegrative and the constructive. Your posts have always been ones that helped align my thoughts and reflections with the latter – the constructive.

    It seems that the more friends that are aware of the positive influence that they can have on others, no matter what the medium – we are able to overcome the ideas that there is only one approach or way that will always be right. It seems that we have the choice to use facebook in creating spaces to address issues in everyone’s lives, or to focus on selfish pursuits. It’s always hard to avoid the latter.

    Anyhow, i love the irony of your post 😉

  3. i just re-read what i wrote and it seems slightly incoherent. here’s hoping the spirit of it comes through! i guess i’m still figuring out my thoughts on it!

    1. Prema, not incoherent at all, I connected with all you were saying actually.

      I, too am looking at the dichotomous nature of my life. Things seem either black or white sometimes. (I wrote about it here: http://alisacaroline.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/binary-unity/ )

      In terms of the internet use thing, from a birds-eye perspective, it seems we’re pretty judgmental. I wonder if it’s as simple as using technology in a “good” or “bad” way? Who are we to judge like that? Isn’t that supposed to be God’s job?

      Is there a non-egotistical way to use the internet? Is there a way to do anything in a non-selfish manner? I’m reminded of that Friends episode when Joey challenges Phoebe to find one non-selfish act. She can’t.

      Seems like we’re stuck being imperfect human beings. 🙂

      OK, I’m going to go check my profile to see who tagged me and if anyone responded to my tongue-in-cheek status update. Check ya later! 😉

  4. I recently de-activated fb on a challenge by my friend. He was off it for 2 months so he wouldn’t be distracted for school. It was a habit to just go on fb to kill time now i have to find conscious ways of spending my time instead of falling back into old habits.

    Check out Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. It talks about how TV has influenced the way and purpose for our communication. Good read.

  5. LOVE this, Sholeh. It really is an odd phenomenon, isn’t it? Never before have we had such open and unfettered access into the lives and minds of our friends (and also, of our “friends”), but never before have we (or at least, some of us) been so dissatisfied by what we’ve ended up with. That being, simply, a very shallow way of connecting with one another, and a merging of the virtual and the real into some strange new thing that doesn’t quite…feel right.

    It’s hard. A few years ago, I deleted my Friendster (hey! Remember that?), my MySpace and hi5 accounts, but kept my Facebook account for some reason (at the time, Facebook was still a college-centric application that I used a lot at KU). I was totally fine without those accounts, and I didn’t really feel that it made me less “plugged in” than I’d felt before.

    Now, however, I can’t really imagine being without it. It just seems like, to a certain extent, there’s no going back, you know? These modes of communication have become the standard, not the exception–even supplanting email as the most-used method of online communication (at least among my contacts). It makes me wonder if early telephone users were tempted to swear off the device when dissatisfied by the lack of face-to-face contact. How futile would their attempts have been! Perhaps we’ll reach a point where we’ll be able to sort out what’s useful and not-so-useful about FB and the like, and get back in touch with some of the old-fashioned methods of communication.

    Which reminds me! I should give you a telephone call. 🙂

  6. I totally agree with you – I had to remove the app from my iphone because I caught myself checking it instead of watching my kids play!!! Plus – they are truly deceptive in their privacy practices. I find myself torn. On the one hand, I can reach certain people ONLY via FB – they reply to wall posts but not emails etc. On the other hand, I find the same things you posted so eloquently…..such a conundrum…..

  7. Usually when I start to feel similar, I end up culling the list of people I follow. Simply looking at each individual’s picture and responding to the gut call of happy vs sad is enough to remove enough negative feeling to keep me.

    There was a period where that process didn’t work with Myspace. Most of what I was getting was advertising from spammers. I ended up deleting my Myspace account then.

  8. So well said Sholeh. This made me profoundly sad too though in a way, thinking of my own swiftly passing life with fleeting fancies occupying my mind and heart…So much to think about. Merci!

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