I have been talking a lot on different podcasts about how important it is to shut off the screaming messages that the world is sending out to you. The information age is amazing. Anyone anywhere can learn anything. I constantly wonder, “what are the negative impacts this can have on who we are as human beings and our overall psyche?” There are amazing benefits to what we are provided with the increasing super powers of technology.
Amazon provides us packages within 48 hours (with free shipping for Prime Members). Google will answer any question you have in about 100 different ways when you access their search engine. They can refer you to books, scholarly articles, and op-eds about the subject. Making you an expert in a few hours. Facebook and Instagram allow us to keep in touch with friends and be constantly tied into the lifestyle they are willing to share with the world. If you want to start a business, Alibaba will put you in touch with manufacturers all over the world in days. Shopify will help you build an e-commerce store to launch that very business on the same day. It is all amazing. Yet the question persists. What are the downsides of this?
All of these companies are training us to expect things immediately. Make a purchase, expect shipping confirmation the same day. We neurotically track every package and every movement on the way to our door. We watch the package on our ring device until we get home in case someone wants to steal it from us (fuck those people by the way). Keeping up with everyone has its downfalls as well. These people only show us their victories and rarely share the fact that they are facing the same struggles as all of us. Lack of regulation in information sharing allows people to share information that hasn’t been vetted, or worse is purposely falsified to serve another purpose. In comes the google results that have been paid for, telling you that your president is the devil.
Where do we draw the line? How do I leverage this super computer, that fits in my pocket, to change the world and to not turn into Darth Vader in the middle of doing so? I think it requires the following steps.
Comparison is the seed of envy. If you have amazing self-control and know when to turn off the evil powers of these two social media networks, then you don’t need to cut it out completely. If you don’t have that level of self-control and catch yourself fading into the dark side delete the apps off of your phone. It sounds crazy I know. After all, many of you were driven to this website by Instagram. I do use Instagram, and it is only to market the podcast and other businesses I am involved in. I caught myself slipping into the dark side and now I have set a strict no consuming policy. I only create content I do not consume. From time to time I will allow myself to observe the social media marketing strategies of competitors. Constantly view the lives of others through the lenses of social media and you open the door to comparison, which grows into envy.
There used to be a time when they printed one newspaper a day. There even used to be a time when television turned off and the screen went blank following the national anthem at the end of the night. There was not always a continuous stream of content available for the world to consume. Trying to keep up with the ever evolving political landscape, or the international economy is an uphill battle that you will surely lose. Even investment bankers work 80 hour weeks to focus on a single market in the World Economy. Headlines will give you everything and I promise, there are too many books out there for you to waste time reading cheesy clickbait on the internet.
If you work hard enough you can find this time regardless of the industry you are in. It may be from 5am-8am. That is still a solid amount of time to limit screen time. If anything, it’s more peaceful to limit screen time in the morning before the rest of the world is “in your face.” For me every day when I am done with work, the phone gets thrown into some space, on silent, where I will not look at it for several hours. It is as though I am casting off the chains that technology has thrust upon me. From 5pm to 8pm no one can reach me and if the British are coming you better send Paul Revere on horseback because you won’t catch me by phone. The world does not deserve constant contact with immediate feedback from me. If we have a right as a human, it is the ability to be alone with our thoughts and technology robs us of this.
I am not standing in front of you with a bible pointed in your face labeling you a sinner. I have no problem with pre-marital sex between two consenting adults and I am a big fan of admiring beauty in the opposite sex. After all I am married to the most beautiful woman in the world. The issue lies in the ability to consume the most vivid, and hardcore pornographic material to ever exist. The fact that we haven’t reached max capacity on the amount of pornography needed in the world blows my mind. They keep producing and people keep consuming. This market is the king of over production and over consumption of content.
Studies are showing that pornography is leading to lower libido, erectile dysfunction, and sexualization of the world. Some men are more likely to masturbate to pornography than they are to engage in sexual intercourse with a partner. What’s more is people anticipate that soon all babies will be created in labs as that is the safest way to reproduce. I think we are still a ways off from there but talk about opening the door for the absence of intercourse at that point. Aldous Huxley was spot on about many of his forecasts of the future in Brave New World. However, his creation of the orgy porgy didn’t account for the fact that human beings would have constant access to 4K pornography in any genre they want to watch. I go back and forth between anticipating contraception becoming so good that people will have sex everywhere and live-porn becoming so big that no one will have sex anywhere.
I can’t understand why as a society people are not reading more books. The Marine Corps drilled this into my head, and it has afforded me so much more knowledge than I believe I would have ever obtained elsewhere. Blog posts and online courses are awesome, I agree. They can teach us a hell of a lot. Yet an autobiography, catalog of memoirs, or a how-to book can literally put us in the mind of a genius and afford us the opportunity to mimic how they think. Take for example the story of Easy Company from Band of Brothers. Their platoon commander and subsequent Battalion Executive Officer is the epitome of first rate leadership. I can buy a biography about him, a catalogue of his memoirs, and a book called conversations with Dick Winters (written just before he passed) all for under 30 dollars. I can become a scholar in first rate leadership in a few short weeks.
I have a lot of friends who are extremely intelligent when it comes to world affairs and current events. I garner a lot of my information from them. They get a huge endorphin rush when it comes to explaining a situation. So generally, I ask them what their opinion is on a certain headline I have read, and I allow them to give me the cliff notes version. I personally try to catalogue my friend’s and family’s political biases so that I can attempt sift through what may be opinion and what may be unbiased information in the break down they provide. I am never judgmental of what they say but I am willing to choose what I accept, and I do not. If they provide information I find somewhat controversial I will finally cave and go on to read further into it. An example in recent events was the bombing of the cargo ship off off the coast of Iran. It was too hot button of a topic and too controversial for me not to read further and develop my own opinion. If I read into every topic as much as I did the Iran Topic, I would be fired from my job and divorced by my family. So, I carefully choose what I will read and what I will not.
If you listened to episode 17 of the podcast, I talk about some of the happiest times in my life being when I had zero material possessions and lived with what I carried on my back. I’m not an infantry officer any more. I don’t go to the field for two weeks a month and live in the woods anymore. So, when I go to places on vacation the phone goes away. Fortunately, my wife takes plenty of pictures for me to catalogue what happens. I’m also so dialed in and not distracted by my phone that I don’t care if we have every moment documented. My memories of the events are good enough.
Every once in a great while I schedule a time to go into the woods completely alone or with a friend who appreciates nature as much as I do. Those are times for great resets. They remind me why I don’t need tech and why I don’t need to be constantly connected. I can figure out the world without Instagram and google. The world will carry on without me as well and if I miss out on something I can always go back and check it out later. If it was that important I will.
Google, Amazon, Alibaba, and everything else in the tech world are amazing. It is doing a great thing for our comfort level in life. I can do more things on my phone than I could do on a gigantic desk top 10 years ago. The dark-side avails itself in the absence of moderation. It creeps in when we don’t develop systems to reset. We can and we must do these things. I promise you don’t need to be ever connected and if you think that your business or the world will fall apart without you, give it a shot for a week. You can always go back to being the omni-present consumer of content.
John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.