I carry my phone around with me as if it were an oxygen tank

I carry my phone around with me as if it were an oxygen tank. I stare at it while I make breakfast and take out the recycling, ruining what I prize most about working from home—the sense of control, the relative peace. I have tried all sorts of things to look at screens less often: I don’t get push notifications or use Facebook or watch Instagram stories; on my home computer, I have installed a browser plug-in called StayFocusd, which turns off Twitter after forty-five minutes of daily use. On my phone, I use an app called Freedom to block social media for much of the workday. If any of my digital chastity belts malfunction, I start scrolling like a junkie, pulling myself away just long enough to send frantic e-mails to the apps’ customer service with subject lines like “Freedom not working!” …

Nearly three-quarters of Americans have taken steps to distance themselves from Facebook. Entire families try to observe a “digital Sabbath.” Parents seek screen-time alternatives to the Jungian horrorscape that is children’s YouTubeAnd yet a mood of fidgety powerlessness continues to accumulate, like an acid snowfall on our collective mind…

One afternoon, I draped myself on my couch and felt an influx of mental silence that was both disturbing and hallucinatorily pleasurable. I didn’t want to learn how to fix or build anything, or start a book club. I wanted to experience myself as soft and loose and purposeless, three qualities that, in my adulthood, have always seemed economically risky. Nothing is harder to do than nothing,” Jenny Odell writes, in her new book,How to Do Nothing.” …Odell details, with earnest wonder, moments in her life when she was reoriented toward these values. After the 2016 election, she began feeding peanuts to two crows on her balcony, and found comfort in the fact that “these essentially wild animals recognized me, that I had some place in their universe.” …

On the first day of April, I took stock of my digital experiment. I had not become a different, better person. I had not acquired any high-value leisure activities. But I had felt a sort of persistent ache and wonder that pulled me back to a year that I spent in the Peace Corps, wandering in the dust at the foot of sky-high birch trees, terrified and thrilled at the sensation of being unknowable, mysterious to myself, unseen. I watered my plants, and I loosened my StayFocusd settings, back to forty-five daily minutes. I considered my Freedom parameters, which I had already learned to break, and let them be…

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” the philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, in 1654…

Sitting quietly in a room alone is for experts.

~ Jia Tolentino, excerpts from What It Takes to Put Your Phone Away The New Yorker, April 22, 2019


Notes: Essay – Thank you Sawsan for sharing! And publicly highlighting another addiction. Image: Nico Milk

Sunday Morning

“Everything is explained now. We live in an age when you say casually to somebody ‘What’s the story on that?’ and they can run to the computer and tell you within five seconds. That’s fine, but sometimes I’d just as soon continue wondering. We have a deficit of wonder right now.”

Tom Waits, in Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters edited by Paul Jr Maher 

 


Notes: Portrait via film.ru.  Quote via see more

Gotta have these boots. Now. Right Now.

Dianne Alfaro sat in a pew in the back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, her head bowed during Mass on Sunday morning. She cast her eyes down as the hymn “Jerusalem My Happy Home” swelled around her.

As the words “Hosanna in the highest!” echoed in the cathedral, she never looked up. That is, until she finished buying a pair of black boots off the internet on her iPhone.

“At some point, the priest during the Mass says, ‘Lift up your hearts.’ He does not say, ‘Lift up your cellphones to take pictures,’” Pope Francis said last week during a general audience at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, where he urged Catholics to leave their phones home.

But during Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it seemed either the pontiff’s message had not yet reached across the Atlantic or the churchgoers were not listening.

Beside a font of holy water, tourists took in the Mass via the screens of their phones, some mounted on selfie sticks. By the entrance, devotees stood praying, but every so often phone-holding hands would pop up above the crowd to snap a picture. One man stood in the back, hunched in what appeared to be deep devotion — to select the perfect photo filter for his picture of the cathedral’s eaves.

In the pews, most people pored over the missals. But a surreptitious few checked email, planting their phone between the pages of the Psalms. One woman strode boldly through the nave as the organ played, her earbuds in, video chatting all the while.

“It’s probably a trend they should embrace,” said Edward Zhong, 25, a doctor visiting from Australia with his brother Mark, 21, who spent much of the homily taking pictures. Dr. Zhong suggested the church might go so far as create an app for use during Mass. “They probably could access a greater demographic — people who are born with an iPhone in their hand.”

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said that some churches already offer apps, a trend he does not approve. “There are enough occasions for our mind to wander during Mass; we shouldn’t be using these artificial things that take us away,” he said. […]

But as the Mass ended, Ms. Alfaro, shoes newly purchased, was unrepentant. She finds her connection with God, she said, on her own time, in her own way. And as for internet shopping in the pew, she added, “It’s not a sin.”

~ Sarah Maslin Nir, excerpts from Pope Says No Phones in Church. Parishioners Keep Scrolling. (NY Times, Nov 12, 2017)


Notes:

  • Post Inspiration: Thank you Karl Duffy via Mindfulbalance: “How much does a person lack in him or herself who must have many things?” by Sen no Rikyū (1522 – 1591)
  • Photo: Nordstrom

we stare rapt into its bright light

The smartphone is an intimate device; we stare rapt into its bright light and stroke its smooth glass to coax out information and connect with others. It seems designed to help us achieve Westin’s functions of privacy*, to enable emotional release and moments of passive reflection. We cradle it in bed, at dinner, on the toilet. Its pop-up privacy policies are annoying speed bumps in the otherwise instantaneous conjuring of desires. It feels like a private experience, when really it is everything but. How often have you shielded the contents of your screen from a stranger on the subway, or the partner next to you in bed, only to offer up your secrets to the data firm tracking everything you do?

~ Amanda Hess, excerpt from “How Privacy Became a Commodity for the Rich and Powerful” (NY Times, May 9, 2017)


Notes:

Does just asking the question make you feel ill?

Try to pinpoint the last time you took a purposeless walk through the late spring breeze, when there was no itch in your hand to reach for a mobile device, and you felt like the wind and sky around you had nothing to disclose to you other than the vast and mysteriously sympathy of existence itself. Was it 2007? Or as far back as 1997? Does just asking the question make you feel ill?

~ Michael Brendan Dougherty, from I write on the internet. I’m sorry. (The Week, May 1, 2007)

 


Art: Eiko Ojala with “I found my silence“. The Estonian artist famous for his paperwork released a new personal project with no clue on what media is used in it. This could be a beautiful mix of paper, photography and illustrations but we are gracefully confused, but incline to paper. The only thing we know – it is beautiful (via DesignCollector)

Everyone knows this. Everyone knows what it looks like.

Everyone knows this. Everyone knows what it looks like. I can’t count how many pieces I’ve read about how alienated we’ve become, tethered to our devices, leery of real contact; how we are heading for a crisis of intimacy, as our ability to socialise withers and atrophies. But this is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. We haven’t just become alienated because we’ve subcontracted so many elements of our social and emotional lives to machines. It’s no doubt a self-perpetuating cycle, but part of the impetus for inventing as well as buying these things is that contact is difficult, frightening, sometimes intolerably dangerous Your favourite part of having a smartphone is never having to call anyone again, the source of the gadget’s pernicious appeal is not that it will absolve its owner of the need for people but that it will provide connection to them –connection, furthermore, of a risk-free kind, in which the communicator need never be rejected, misunderstood or overwhelmed, asked to supply more attention, closeness or time than they are willing to offer up.

~ Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone


Photo: Luca Pietrobono with smartphone

All dust and flashing hooves

hooves-dust

Certainly, being in the moment would seem impossible in our culture’s time-fissioning present, our iPhoned, Facebooked, Googled, Twittered restlessness, our desperate fear of missing the latest morsel of information, our attention never more than a nanosecond from seduction — our discontinuous, du jour present, a Smithsonian so densely packed with experiential exhibits that no lingering look, no settled examination, seems permitted. No sooner do we settle into a moment than another gallops by, all dust and flashing hooves.

~ Jerry DeNuccio, from “A Moment.” Just as you’re ”in” the moment, another moment comes. What to do?. 


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth at Alive on All Channels. Photo: Richard Baxter (Harcourt, Australia) with Spirit Dance

 

Trick or Treat?

The New Yorker cover


Source: The New Yorker (See other Halloween covers at this isn’t happiness)

 

Growing more itchy and agitated by the day

Sven Birkerts

“Sven Birkerts is an anxious man. By turns he is frightened, terrified, alarmed, filled with dread. On one occasion he shudders in his core; mostly he is just plain worried. What concerns him, a concern he is eager to transmit to us, is the rapid spread of computer, Internet and telephone technologies and more specifically what those technologies are doing to our minds. Forever glued to screens of one kind or another, clicking compulsively on the links others provide for us, we are losing the ability to concentrate, growing more itchy and agitated by the day, allowing our consciousness to be fragmented and dispersed.”

~ Tim Parks. Read his full NY Times review of Sven Birkerts new book here: “Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age.”


Amazon’s Book Summary: “After two decades of rampant change, Birkerts has allowed a degree of everyday digital technology into his life. He refuses to use a smartphone, but communicates via e-mail and spends some time reading online. In Changing the Subject, he examines the changes that he observes in himself and others–the distraction when reading on the screen; the loss of personal agency through reliance on GPS and one-stop information resources; an increasing acceptance of “hive” behaviors. “An unprecedented shift is underway,” he argues, and “this transformation is dramatically accelerated and more psychologically formative than any previous technological innovation.” He finds solace in engagement with art, particularly literature, and he brilliantly describes the countering energy available to us through acts of sustained attention, even as he worries that our increasingly mediated existences are not conducive to creativity. It is impossible to read Changing the Subject without coming away with a renewed sense of what is lost by our wholesale acceptance of digital innovation and what is regained when we immerse ourselves in a good book.”

Wired

ajit johnson


Source: See others in this series by Ajit Johnson

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