So, with all respect to Cal Newport, whose book Deep Work I’ve been trying to use as a guide, when he says:
Quit social media for a month—
—and then fails to mention the profound sense of dislocation, alienation, and physical withdrawal symptoms this may cause…
Well. Damn Cal. Damn.
Cal is a hard-working, no-nonsense, straight-edged dude. He wasn’t part of the ‘me’ decade, doesn’t remember in his bones the mantra, ‘if it feels good, do it.’ Also, not a science fiction writer, he doesn’t understand the utopian glee with which we plunged headlong into this networked world of the future pretty sure, like the hyped-up masses of the Arab spring, that the promised land was just around the corner.
We infected ourselves with the future on purpose.
We thought google-glass might be a good idea.
Science-fiction is, has been, a kind of half-assed thought experiment about technology and the future disguised, sometimes barely, as entertainment.
Often, SF isn’t so much extrapolation as it is allegory, (saith William Gibson; SF is more about the present than the future.)
The SF writer, confronted with the data on the deleterious effects of network culture on deep work, on concentration, on work-life balance, experiences painful cognitive dissonance. We are just the latest in a long series of revolutionaries becoming counter revolutionaries. Believers becoming skeptics.
To those of you on this journey with me, I say, be careful with this stuff. Newport also points to data suggesting that attention itself is a kind of muscle, that focus is a skill developed over time, and that abrupt efforts to shift away from the kaleidoscope of network culture are often meet with frustration.
Well. Color me frustrated. My productivity isn’t up. Yet. I’ve moved from network heroin to network metadone; this blog, and the handful of readers I can see 24 hours later in analytics; netflixed TV shows instead of snippets of web video, the hilights and GIFS in my feed. Twenty three minute hunks instead of 2 or 3 minute IV drips.
Supposedly, I’m detoxing, even with these small steps. I’ve stopped putting the infoverse through the social media juicer and pureeing it into mind-melting info-slop.
I’m using my mental teeth again. Moving away from baby food.
Tomorrow I will do a 30 minute show on CCTV, our local cable access show, which will probably just recap what I’m blogging but who knows; there’s no script. And I’ll be face to face with a human in a storefront on mass ave.
And then… on YouTube.
Yeah. I know. The Irony.