There's a Nietzsche quote I've been thinking about
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
I know what you're probably thinking..."whoop-de-do, another Nietzsche quote from Pranav." But first of all this quote is unabashedly badass and I won't apologize for it. Second, you're not in for another philosophy lecture because I've been thinking about this quote in relation to social media.
As we go to instagram (or facebook or whatever), you think you are gazing into it, but the abyss is gazing back into you.
The past 3-4 months I've been hearing a lot of social media moralizing. Don't use social media because Russian spies will brainwash you into voting wrong, don't use social media cause they're the opioids of the masses, and blah blah blah. That's nice, but if I'm being honest I don't care. I hate being told to eat my vegetables and sit down and do the right thing for "society." It's too vast, too intelligible, and I always feel like I'm the only one following the rules. Stuff "I should do" is hard to do, stuff "I want to do" I can do super easily.
So, I've ignored most social media moralizing in the past. I watched Social Dilemma a month ago and I thought it was pretty ludicrous at points. There is a subplot where a kid goes on social media, immediately becomes part of a weird political rally and then almost gets shot all the while being controlled by Pete Campbell from Mad Men. No joke, that's actually part of the movie.
But even with the ludicrosity, there were some good parts. There were a series of talking heads where experts give their thoughts on social media. One of the social media experts named Tristan Harris talked about why social media isn't a tool. Tristan explained that a tool just sits there. It's ready to use when you need it. Social media demands something from you. You think you are going towards social media, but in fact it's pulling you towards it. So, social media isn't a tool it's something more nefarious.
That part really resonated with me. I've barely been on social media for the past few years and its for the exact same reason Tristan described.
I almost never want to be on social media. I'm just doing it because I'm bored or anxious or avoiding some feeling. It was rare after social media that I felt happy and satisfied. So after I became aware of this I started to do things that actually made me happy like watch tv shows, videos, and read books. I was still escaping, but in a way that was satisfying.
This intermediary escapism allowed me to slowly start sitting with my feelings instead of escaping them.
Sometimes escapism is good, sometimes we need it. Sometimes it gives us a break and gives us more strength to confront and accept our feelings. But, we must always do the things we want.
I refuse to be a slave to any apps, or people, or societal moralizing. I'm going to do what I want, dammit.
But what do I really want?
That can be a hard question to answer. We might think we want certain things, but we're actually addicted. We may think we want to check out our slack notifications, but actually we're compelled. We're slaves to people and ai that hack our vulnerabilities.
As you do things this week take a second to ask yourself...
Is this what I really want to do right now?
Or just generally ask yourself:
What am I a slave to?
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