Something's happening in my brain. Perhaps it's happening in yours. Whenever I'm with my partner, daughter, friends and family or even when I'm alone (in fact especially when I'm alone), I get an itch. This itch isn't satisfied until I've taken a photo or posted a comment. It isn't satisfied until I have shared something with a large group of people. A sticky, caustic lens has grown over my eyes and I'm unable to experience the world on my own.
If I try and think about how the world was before all technology, I see it as a world without the compulsion to document everything. We looked. We absorbed stuff and thought about how we felt about it. We sometimes enjoyed having an audience but it wasn't always necessary. If something exceptional happened we might ring a friend and tell them about it but it had to be newsworthy- like a horse drinking a beer. We were probably more patient too. We could wait till the evening to tell our friends about the beer-drinking horse. We spent some time thinking about whether it was something exceptional or not. We didn't have this compulsive itch.
And it seems that I'm not the only one who finds it hard to differentiate between what's exceptional and what's not. Why is it interesting to see a photo of what you ate for lunch? Or a photo of your legs as you read a thriller on the beach? And why share photos of your child ALL THE TIME? What's that all about?
This is one area where my brain has truly let me down. It's lovely to spend time with your child. It's precious. I'm not going to lecture parents because I get it, you know it already. But now there's this zombie voice in my head and this voice is like a robot and it chants - TAKE A PHOTO OF YOUR DAUGHTER IN THE SANDPIT. PUT IT ON INSTAGRAM. DO IT. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO. So I take the photo, change the filter, decide what comment I want to accompany it and upload it onto various social media. I'm not a 'digital native' (I remember when a bright yellow 'Sony Sports Walkman' was the flashiest device you could carry about) so these things take time. It takes a lot of concentration and my tongue peeps out like a toddler who's trying to draw a picture of an elephant. The drive to document the moment takes me away from being a parent. And when I look around the playground and wherever else parents and kids tend to congregate, I see the self-same behaviours. All the zombie voices inside are chanting. They've turned into little people in laboratories that note everything down. Their tongues are hanging out. They're no longer parents.
I'm not saying you have to engage with your kid all the time. That would be exhausting and bit mad. But what else could you think about if you weren't uploading another photo of them getting on the slide? Or telling your friend via text how much sand you've got in your shoes right now?
There are plenty of other examples of things that probably don't need to be shared. And things that could free up our brains to just think. Or even allowed our brains to be empty and free. The fact that you've just completed a run or that the man sitting next to you has fallen asleep or your train has been delayed and the film was crap. All the jibber jabber. And at the same time as we're sharing all this stuff, there is evidence that we are talking less and less.
Studies have shown that it is face-to-face interaction - you know those times when we actually move our mouths, that make us feel good. These moments make life meaningful and memorable. But it feels like hard work. And as my propensity to share on the Internet has increased, so my level of talking face-to-face has decreased. Now I can barely summon up a tidy conversation about the weather.
Do you find face-to-face talking makes you tired? I am finding it increasingly hard to summon up the energy to talk (maybe being a parent to a young child is a factor). I struggle to think of one thing to say.
I'm just a pointy finger without a mouth. And it's really quite windy out isn't it?
I get it. Sometimes the Internet is great for sharing. There are plenty of times when I've found support and friendship online. But it feels like we need to reflect more on what's exceptional and what isn't. Imagine you were having a drink with a friend. Would you tell them what you just ate? Would you show them a hundred photos of your child? Would they be interested in looking at the holiday apartment that was right next to the beach? Or would they yawn and look away. We're turning our lives into slide shows. And they're quite boring slide shows. The kind that you got at school when the teacher hadn't turned up and there was nothing else to do that day.
I have accepted that my brain chemistry is out of whack. And I'm taking steps to re-train my brain into a healthier way of living. Each time I hear the zombie I'm putting my phone away. I'm even considering leaving my phone at home. Radical! There are companies that are now making clothing that allows us to shut the online space out completely. Before resorting to this I'm going to try pure willpower.
Wish me luck. And hopefully when I meet you I'll have something interesting to share.