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Why I Get Stuck on the Intarwebs

This repeats and then expands on my response to kate_nepveu's posting of a link to an article on Slate about why things like Google and Twitter are addictive to many:

The Slate article explains so much about what happens to me when I'm tired and lonely (because the Mr. has gone to bed early or because he's on travel). I have to look at stuff - just one more thing - and am tempted to post garbage on my LJ because I want responses, and yet most of what I am looking at is the emotional equivalent of the nutritional value of a marshmallow Peep.

In fact, I've even said as much, when my husband asks me why I do it: "If the day didn't bring me anything I really want, I feel I have to keep looking for something that will make me happy."

(And then he'll often say, "You know, life is what happens when you're making other plans.")

I haven't been on Facebook for months because where at least a third of my my LJ interactions have some component of real satisfaction (I cheer someone up a little, someone admires something I wrote, I find out that someone I care about is feeling better, etc.), less than 10% of my Facebook time was anything like that. I was playing Mafia Wars and Cafe World and looking at memes from people I used to know in high school who now have no interests in common with me. So I essentially dropped it. Sometimes it backfires because the RL friends on there assume I'm keeping up, but the heck with it.

I guess I ought to see whether I can check it once or twice a month for news and not play any games. But I'm a little frightened to try.

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( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
scribblemoose
Apr. 9th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
That makes so much sense. And I dropped FB for just the same reason.

It fits with what I was saying about writing earlier today, too. Easier to look for the quick fix than invest in creating something.

Your husband's right, though. We need to get out more. ;)
chomiji
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:11 am (UTC)

You're so right, and when I'm feeling OK, I can control the situation a little better. It's when I haven't slept well for several nights that things get stupid and bad. But it's interesting to look at the underlying mechanisms.

(I though about commenting on your post, but I didn't seem to have much to add ... but then, I'm feeling craptastic today .. some sort of cold thing.)

scribblemoose
Apr. 10th, 2010 09:22 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think when we're lowest those quick-hits are particularly attractive - and maybe in those circumstances they're not so bad, so long as one can pull out of them afterwards. I know when I'm depressed or anxioius or there's a crisis it's not as if I can do much else - at least that 'seeking' behaviour keeps you feeling vaguely productive. Trick is to know when and how to exchange it for more satisfying behaviour as the crisis fades.

Sorry about the cold thing. I had one of those a week or so back, no fun at all. :( *hugs*
7veilsphaedra
Apr. 9th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
I don't agree with the connections Yoffe was making in the article or the conclusions she drew. The analogy of the cat uselessly chasing laser beams at the end of the article was a particularly spectacular deductive leap. Her premises were based on these very tenuous analogies, and 1 + 2 = 3 =/= A + B = C, so it's fallacious.
chomiji
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:14 am (UTC)

Well, the article seems to strike a chord with something I've noticed in myself, and commenters here and on Kate's LJ seem to feel it applies to them as well.

I'm fully prepared to believe that it doesn't apply to everyone. There's a lot of variation to how human beings respond to various stressors.

7veilsphaedra
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:38 am (UTC)
Of course, and by taking exception to the article, I didn't mean to invalidate what your experience is, or how it conforms with what this author claims are the forces operating behind those experiences.

I was breaking the article down into the points which the author makes and trying to make the connection between the various premises and the conclusions she drew from them, and became struck by how much of a chasm there is between them. She just doesn't provide the evidence to support her claims that the one (ie., the brain chemistry set off by the activity of seeking) is the cause of the other (ie., internet addictions, shortened attention spans, shallow research and observational habits and other side effects which Nicholas Carr cites in "Is Google Making Us Stupid?")

And, yes! — There are side effects to internet information technology which Carr took care to document in his article, but the epistomology of Yoffe's article is too threadbare. So, I'm not denying that there are problems, but I require evidence that the problems have a causal correlation with what Yoffe says are the operating physiological symptoms. She needs to bridge that gap more carefully.

What I find amazing though, is how willingly people jump to Yoffe's conclusion that there is a physiological compulsion at work here before other possibilities have been investigated.
smillaraaq
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:53 am (UTC)
Yoffe is a *horrible* writer IMO -- I have a weird little internet compulsive thing of my own where she's on a short list of columnists I loathe and yet read semi-regularly just so I can roll my eyes at how thoughtless and wrong-headed some of their material is. And I particularly have to wonder if that last bit where she's quoting Temple Grandin isn't taken horribly out of context -- plenty of domestic animals approach play in a less compulsive/neurotic fashion, and plenty of wild animals show play behavior even as adults. I haven't read that particular book of hers yet, but everything I've read by and about Ms. Grandin so far suggests she has a much more nuanced and insightful view of animal behavior than that little random snippet would suggest.
chomiji
Apr. 10th, 2010 03:02 am (UTC)

I've been meaning to read some Temple Grandin. There was a stage in my life when working with autistic children was a possible job path, and I was fascinated to hear some of her insights in to animal behavior.

7veilsphaedra
Apr. 10th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
It's quite extraordinary how she extrapolates Grandin's conclusions to peg human behaviour. Also, did you notice how she re-frames Kent Berridge's conclusions, like she specifically approached him and consulted with him about human behaviour with regards to the internet? Holy poppycock on stupidseed bagel!

Horrible is too kind.



Edited at 2010-04-10 03:38 am (UTC)
lady_ganesh
Apr. 11th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
Slate's overriding editorial principals are generally 'look at how edgy we are!', which I think can override any logic and common sense.
blackmagie
Apr. 9th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that sounds about right. I haven't been on Facebook in a while and when I go, it's just to accept (or ignore) friend requests. I used to read status updates and comment on them all the time but since FB redesigned, I just kind of hate it because it makes me have to work to find those updates and well. I stopped. And the ease with which I stopped speaks volumes.

Same with Tumblr. Shiny initially but it doesn't give me the interaction I crave. Twitter I can leave or take but for now, I've left.

My journal though I stick with because I get all sorts of interaction.
chomiji
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:17 am (UTC)

Yes, exactly. With a lot of those long-ago acquaintances, the fact that I know they're still out there seems to be what's important to me. Trying to make it more than that (especially for those who were never more than acquaintances IRL) is what went wrong. That, and the ridiculously addictive games.

estara
Apr. 9th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
Indeed the community but also personal blog level of LJ is what keeps me coming back since 2002.

I've practically abandoned my own blog, but feel satisfied when having had a nice comment exchange with my regular reading list, sometimes even exchanging addresses and sending stuff on and getting stuff back when knowing the person virtually for a few years.
Reading certain LJs regularly connects me to other people's experiences and I can share in their ups and downs and get perspective on my own ups and downs.
Also my real life family and friends don't share a lot of my interests, that's just how it worked out.
chomiji
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:20 am (UTC)

Yes - that's how LJ feels to me as well. I tried making friends among the parents of my daughter's classmates and at my old synagogue, and it was useless. Once we finished talking about our children, we had nothing in common. And even that was not a great match - their kids all like sports and play in band or orchestra, and mine likes Terry Pratchett and editing video recordings.

I can talk to my sister Amy and my stepmother about some fannish things, and I consider myself lucky to have that much.

estara
Apr. 10th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
My best time for real life interaction on my interests was when I was at university. But I unfortunately no longer live in a university town, so I'm relieved at finding on the internet people with similar interests.

Compared to my childhood I'm not longer the only bookworm liking fantasy, scifi, romance and later manga and anime, heh. I wouldn't have stopped with the reading even if I hadn't found kindred souls, but it is nice ^^ to not be alone.
lady_ganesh
Apr. 11th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah, same here.

Edited 'cause that was the wrong icon.

Edited at 2010-04-11 03:51 pm (UTC)
estara
Apr. 12th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
Except you haven't abandoned your LJ, heh ^^.
lady_ganesh
Apr. 12th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
I have another blog, though, under my 'real' name...I hardly ever touch it. :D
estara
Apr. 12th, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
^^
yes, but I've also never really used my LJ, so that makes me one up in our one-up-manship of.... what exactly? *ROFL*
lady_ganesh
Apr. 12th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
Re: ^^
I don't know! But I'm surprised you don't LJ much, as I'm quite used to seeing you here...:D
estara
Apr. 13th, 2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
Re: ^^
I think we're misunderstanding each other: I meant I don't use my own LJ to post, I comment LOADS!!

"created on 2002-10-14
47 Journal Entries,
207 comments received,
3,694 comments posted "
lady_ganesh
Apr. 14th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
Re: ^^
Haha, yes, that seems more familiar! :D
smillaraaq
Apr. 9th, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
The Slate article explains so much about what happens to me when I'm tired and lonely (because the Mr. has gone to bed early or because he's on travel)

Mmm, yes, but didn't you pretty much have that figured out for yourself already? I know you've talked before about how you were stepping back from FB because you felt like you were wasting more and more time there without getting enough payoff in the form of the social/emotional connection you were craving. And I'm pretty sure you've also talked about LJ helps fill needs that are being un-/insufficiently met in your face-to-face life -- geeky female friends who share more of your interests than most folks you associate with in RL, friendly social interactions when your job is leaving you feeling like you're isolated and alone during the day, etc.?

In fact, I've even said as much, when my husband asks me why I do it: "If the day didn't bring me anything I really want, I feel I have to keep looking for something that will make me happy."

(And then he'll often say, "You know, life is what happens when you're making other plans.")


Mmmm, but if passively accepting whatever happens isn't providing what you want and need, isn't it a *good* thing to proactively seek out ways to improve your situation? I mean, sure, like anything else this can be counterproductive and unhealthy if done to excess, or if used as a distraction that keeps you from tackling deeper problems, but in moderation it seems to me like it's much healthier and productive to actively do things that bring you some sort of satisfaction, rather than just griping about the ways in which your life is lacking without doing anything about it...

I guess I ought to see whether I can check it once or twice a month for news and not play any games. But I'm a little frightened to try.

Hmmm...I don't know what the Mac browser options are like, but I have a Firefox extension that lets me permanently remove elements from webpages -- I use it to get rid of things like unwanted Google tabs, or huge empty frames left over from adblockers; maybe there's something similar that would let you block bits like the games so you don't ever see them? Or else use something similar to LeechBlock that will ration the time you spend there, limit it to certain times of day, etc.?



chomiji
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:28 am (UTC)

Well, of course you're right - I did indeed come to that conclusion awhile ago. But you know I how always grab for external validation. Seeing someone talk about it in a fairly mainstream forum felt remarkable. So I remarked upon it ... .

I should just go into my damn FB settings and remove all the games, that's all. And the Young Lady says I should just set things to Ignore all the people whose updates aren't doing anything for me. But that's the INTJ thing to do ... woobie INFP me feels that it would be so cruel to ignore them - they wanted to be my friends. Of course, this reluctance among emotional-type folks this is one of the things that FB and its advertisers bank on.

No, I can't really disagree with the Mr. on this one. I'm not talking about discussing things with you like this, or writing stories or anything truly interactive like that. I'm talking about near-mindlessly clicking links instead of getting my ass out of the chair and going to bed so I have enough energy the next night to write stories and reviews and good stuff like that. Not to mention getting things together so I can make time to actual see my imouto-chan IRL ... .

smillaraaq
Apr. 10th, 2010 04:02 am (UTC)
Well, as far as I'm concerned my nee-chan is smarter and more insightful than a lot of the useless mainstream pundits like Prudie, so their validation isn't worth very much compared to your own thoughts! Harrumph.

But that's the INTJ thing to do ... woobie INFP me feels that it would be so cruel to ignore them - they wanted to be my friends.

Heh, see, that's where my more extreme introversion score comes in, and maybe that near-even F/T split -- I don't have as much of a problem rejecting "friendships" from people that I can't see as more than distantly friendly acquaintances; I find people so draining in general that I get really stubborn about resisting what feels like demands for greater intimacy and time/energy suck than I'm willing to give. I don't particularly want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I have to guard my spoons pretty zealously and know I can't count on other folks to do that for me, so I have to be my own guard dog at the gates, so to speak.

And even a little bit of mindless downtime on games or whatnot isn't necessarily a bad thing, so long as you don't get so sucked into it that it's keeping you away from sleep or more productive/satisfying interactions. When my insomnia's particularly bad, for instance, or if I'm sick and feeling too brainfogged to deal with serious reading or projects or even chatting with anyone, that's when I tend to go for silly little puzzle games or hack-and-slash dungeon crawls, or empty out all the stuff that's piled up for weeks on the DVR -- games or TV, or really familiar kidlit comfort reads, are *just* diverting enough to keep me from stewing mentally about not being able to sleep or feeling wretched, without being so compelling that I can't shut 'em off easily when I finally feel drowsy. It sounds like the FB games, for whatever reason of their design or proximity to somewhat unsatisfying social media or your own personality aren't working that way for you, of course, but perhaps there may be times where some other sorts of games on a different site might be nice little mental-winddown casual things for you? (Orisinal has a lot of stuff that works particularly well for me when I just want a brief little destressing sort of casual distraction -- the games are all very simple and mostly have very cute, soft graphics and soothing music, so the overall effect is relaxing rather than an OCD-ish winding-up anxiety...)
jinxaire
Apr. 10th, 2010 01:56 am (UTC)
Eh, I suffer from the exact same issue. My best friend who is also my roommate got a boyfriend last year. We've been attached at the hip for the last 12 years but now she's attached to her beau and we usually don't exchange more than "have a good day" as we leave for work despite living in the same apartment. I'm naturally an introvert but also a bit shy. At this point, I feel that I totally lack friend-making skills, and end up spending way too much time looking up irrelevant info on the net when I really need to get my butt out of house and learn how to make friends the hard way.
chomiji
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)

Jinx, this is one of those YMMV issues where life stage & situation makes a hell of a lot of difference. For a 51-year-old woman like myself - time-consuming family responsibilities, a soul-sucking job that pays too well to leave casually, no interest in TV, no interest in mainstream bestsellers, little interest in the usual high-powered feminine chitchat etc. that's typical of the vast majority of women near my age in our section of society in this location - making friends via the method you're calling "the hard way" is pretty useless. See my comments to estara, above. for some more details about how this was going for me.

I had practically given up on finding girlfriends with similar interests, until I got on LJ.

jinxaire
Apr. 10th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
I understand what you mean and hope you didn't take any offense.

Despite my youth, I'm really out of touch with mainstream entertainment. I see few movies and the last 'regular' show I watched ended five years ago. I don't listen to the radio as most of my music interests are hardly known in America. When my coworkers are going on about shows or movies, most of them go over my head.

My circle of friends consists of two people who I've known for over a decade, but they have their own lives and we rarely spend time together. I don't really care if I have a romantic relationship or not, but I don't want to be alone. The last year has probably been the loneliest that I can remember and I've been suffering bouts of depression. I'll barely be 25 next month but I feel a lot older. I can see myself spending the next five years like this and that's the last thing I want to do.
estara
Apr. 10th, 2010 06:39 pm (UTC)
The older *I* get (chomiji, didn't know you were 51), and I just turned 43, the more I sort of tend to think of not being alone later on, as well.

As long as my health is doing fine that's not been a problem, heh. I've always been self-centered.

Why I'm replying to you: I don't need it yet, but one way to find a circle of people who share some sort of connection to you, is find a place/course whatever where you can volunteer. Find something interesting! Volunteer-based things always need additional help and maybe you have skills that would help you to pick where you wanted to help.

I could eventually see myself teaching English at a community college, being part of an English society (I think we have an Irish one in my town), help babysit kids as a honorary grandma or auntie or something.

Or if you don't want to commit to something that long-time right now (I haven't), you could - if you can afford it - take community college courses in stuff that interest you. At least for that time there's a recurring group of people to meet, and maybe some people would be worth getting to know better and have time to get to know you better, too.

Just stuff I've been musing about for myself, eventually.
jinxaire
Apr. 11th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestions. I'm trying to get into one of the local wildlife rehab centers for volunteer work, actually. Unfortunately, most of the volunteer work around here seems to revolve around the elderly (nursing homes bring up really bad memories) or children - and I really don't actually like children. I'll keep trying, though.

I did take an evening art class at the community college last fall. I had fun although the atmosphere wasn't really one for fostering connections. I might try again later in the year if my job's still steady, we'll see.

estara
Apr. 12th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
I'm happy you didn't think me butting in just a pain in the ass, to tell the truth. But your comment came across to me as someone in a similar situation, only young enough to be more flexible.

The older I get the more settled I am in my routine and not really willing to adapt, so whether I ever take my own well-meaning advice remains to be seen.

Best of luck with your determination to change things around!
chomiji
Apr. 13th, 2010 02:41 am (UTC)

Hey ... >hugs<

I'm not offended - and I'm cross with myself that it came off that way. You didn't need or deserve that.

I get along well with mainstream people when I can work with them day after day over a period of some weeks - I'm helpful and stuff, so they warm to me as they get to know me - but there's rarely any closeness. Even when there is - as with my colleague Abbie - it's like I can only be maybe 60% myself with people who aren't fen. (And even with some who are: the other two women in my RP group - both slightly older than I am, and in heavy-duty technical professions - have no real interest in manga. And let's not even talk about slash ... . )

I have a busy social schedule in a lot of ways (in addition to the RP group, we see a lot of close relatives on both my and my husband's side), but little that really gives me what I crave. People here on LJ and smillaraaq (whom I met through LJ) are about it for that.

I'm so sorry to hear about your situation. That can be so tough! At least the people close to me who don't always understand me are good at hugs, even when they don't really comprehend why I need them.

You know, online friendships can be real friendships too. When I was diagnosed with cancer in fall 2007, I don't know what I would have done without my online friends.

jinxaire
Apr. 16th, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
No worries! *hugs*

I get along well with mainstream people, but it's just hard for me to make connections.

Yes, online friendships can also be rich and rewarding. RL is lacking a lot of those deep connections, though, which is why I'm trying to work on that part of my life.
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