Divided Attention and the Art of Leaving Facebook.

Hi, I’m Aylex and I’m addicted to Facebook. Phew, feels good to let that out.

Why is Facebook addictive. What does it serve to me (to us even!?)

It hits that little trigger in the mind that gives us much, and so short lived joy. Specifically – it releases dopamine. That oh so beautiful neurotransmitter (read: Brain food) that is associated with all the good things in life. Well, by good I mean pleasurable.

Good is a subjective term and pleasure is a feeling. Lots of the greatest pleasures in life are not so beneficial.

From a digital perspective, Facebook gives the recognition of my existence from those around me at a distance.

A few likes here, constant notifications… irrelevant to the virtues of life.

That trigger. It is the secret sauce for the company’s success.

We are all subject to that desire.

It isn’t all bad though. Facebook has delivered significant benefit to my life in these past many years. Job contacts, houses, continued contact with the beautiful people I’ve met around the world. Friends and romantic interests.

People that inspire and excite me through the knowledge they are making it happen. The late night messages of encouragement. The reminders of our own mortality…

It can create connection. Instantly and at a distance. A crazy concept only 20 years ago.

Not to mention the fact I stay in touch with my family without sending mail on the HMS Discovery. Its final location unknown, potentially at the bottom of the sea. This is a gratuitous benefit of technological development none of us would want to relinquish.

To see my sister’s two young children grow has been of immeasurable joy to me. To hear the laughter of my family at their and my own stupidity. You can’t put value on this.

Facebook as a construct though: The struggle of life condensed into a poorly thought and heavily edited brain fart plastered onto a “wall.” The result of divisive attention and confirmation bias tailor made for YOU.

Fundamentally, it is not such a negative tool — when used responsibly. Restraint, that is the crux, the most difficult part of using the tool. Isn’t that the case with all of life? Do I eat one marshmellow, or do I wait for two?

Does the second ever get delivered  (I would most certainly eat the first immediately!)

My family in Australia was worried at my sudden absence from the book of Face. As were a few friends.  They were under the impression I had merely deleted them versus decided to eradicate my digital self.

We feel a connection by seeing what is happening in your life.” – Dad

Given my choice of activities I totally understand. I climb mountains, I push myself and sometimes I am exposed to risk that is traditionally unacceptable. Despite that perspective of the outsider, I’m nothing more than a punter exploring this world of mountain adventure.

Green as can be!

It is all matter of exploration though.

In exploration is where the value lies. In the mountains and in ourselves.

Physical strength, mental extension, trust and love for your friends and loved ones. It’s found in the friends, in the landscape and in the exposure to “what is real” that places you in situations you must deal with. In the mountains, it is decision making in which the right one is imperative.

I understand how it might be challenging for my family not to have the visual connection. The extensive and  brilliant photography by my passionate and talented friends.

Does this truly capture life?

Is this enough reason to leave it activated?

Time will tell.

Eventually I’d like to reconnect with Facebook. For the reasons above. Though, I feel it will be useful for me not to have it.

I think I developed a dependency on that interaction at a young age. Born from my very first interactions with MSN Messenger. Ding, ding, ding.

“Human, you are validated, worthy of love and relevant.”

A substitution for my poor emotional communication skills in my youth. To delay and express the depths of thought that rattle through my consciousness.

Constant ego feedback and quelling of insecurities through text. Tailoring my image to cater to others expectations of me.

To me it seems this is a large part of my discontent with the world. Potentially the discontent in society.

A contributor to anxiety. Concern for the future.

If I’m so dependent on what is outside, how do I find the value of what is within?

By losing my focus on the important things I feed the anxiety.

The anxiety itself causes a loss of focus in turn. A bit of a vicious cycle.

What is important?

Virtues and intrinsic good explored through self examination and discipline.

Anxiety has long had an effect on my life.

Through meditation and actively observing my own patterns I’ve found some mental strength. I’m not so lost in a world of harsh emotion and sometimes self loathing. I step outside the human condition as defined by the great Western thinkers of our time.

This is a condition specific to Western Culture. In my humble opinion.

I lived such a long time in the darkness. Driven by fear and dominated by ego. Interacting with the shadows of Plato’s cave. I’ve since been experiencing periods of relative peace. However fleeting they may be. My shackles have been released and now I must reconcile my own experience with the light, and reality outside the cave (Ref: Check out Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”)

These realizations of my own weakness, viewed through the lens of an intense soul has been super hard internally. A forceful shift of the analytical machine of the mind. Away from the logical constructs of Science, of Business; now towards my own emotions, and my ego. Causing me to feel exposed and vulnerable — though it is from these positions we grow.

This change was not made in isolation. 4 months ago I ditched the smart phone for the flip. Distancing myself from the usual ritualistic phone checking that had become impulsive. I noticed a difference.

A few days ago, I also joined a yoga studio, and I bought an AM/FM alarm clock to minimize my interactions with devices. Preferring to leave the devices outside the room and to give my mind some time to rest.

My experience dabbling in yoga itself has yielded significant benefit. Consistently made me feel stronger and more aware of my body. As with many activities that inherently yield gain, I’ve struggled to commit to the expenditure and time.

The hope in all this is that I am again forced towards more meaningful interaction with myself and others. More than the surface engagement that is typical of social media.

A secondary hope is that my family feels a modicum of peace around my decision (I wrote this for you.)

An ancillary benefit — chances are, if I had Facebook, this article would never exist in any form — I’d likely be too distracted by cats and the darkness of our world.

Here is to your own consolidated attention, and to our joint success in the world. Whomever you are.

Peace and Love.