Sunday, January 24, 2010

no status update = new status symbol?

At Digital Hollywood this year, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with Flint Dille, game designer and writer who's brought complex worlds to life on the screen. Flint raised an interesting question this week while talking to Stuart Volcow's UCLA Transmedia class, about the possibility of a rising backlash against tech media and the sheer cerebral velocity of our lives. I joined the discussion when he moved it to Facebook. (Btw, checked your privacy settings lately?)

I, too, sense a rising resistance to life lived constantly connected and at cyberspeed. Several friends tell me they're getting off Facebook because they're tired of being bombarded with friend requests from people they "didn't like in 3rd grade and surely don't want to be friends with now." One respondent told Flint that she'd started "conducting periodic 'e-fasts', 'fasting' from all e-stuff (phone, e-mail, internet) for a few days at a time" which she reported to find tremendously refreshing.

Studies show, if you're trying to be creative, uplugging for a while is the right idea. An essay in today's NYT Book Review by Jennifer Schuessler says researchers found that when your brain is in quiet mode, undistracted (like when you're under an MRI scanner, for instance, yikes) the brain is in fact firing away, with greater activity in creative areas like autobiographical memory and conjuring fictional events. Ironically, quiet mode is the precise opposite of the setting in which most of our brains are trying to be productive.

Aren't you a tiny bit jealous of the guy you can't call because he doesn't carry around a cellphone? The friend you see only on Skype now and then because he's holed up in Istanbul writing the Great American Novel...on a typewriter?

It used to be that 24/7 connection meant status, but now I suspect that stepping away from the digital world for a while is becoming a luxury that privileged few can afford. Having people manage around you, without your having to conduct a cyberlife, is becoming akin to the royal option of shopping without carrying a wallet. Ironically, it may also explain why Bill Gates is only now discovering twitter.


California Girl said...

thx for the Times article on FB. I oversee my station's FB page but do not have one of my own. I had noticed the status info in the sidebar..relatinaship status, sex, etc. I actually read the CEO's message when it was first posted but I actually skimmed when I say "read".

I leave my phone off alot. I can't get anything done at work if my cell is on. My sons call at all hours and my husband as well. It drives me nuts. My friends on the left coast too as they are 3 hrs behind and never seem to figure out what time it is in the east. I am sometimes overwhelmed and fatigued yet intrigued by the endless possibilities of interactive media. I just don't need it 24/7.

Michael Bissell said...

Although I have been known to hide from my email, phone, etc. I can't really hide for long. One of the problems with being as wired as I am is that people expect that I'll actually get that message, and then they get very upset if I haven't.

As with everything, I think it's a matter of balance, not binge and purge, but daily balance in your life. I've gotten back on my bicycle after a long hiatus, and I find that my brain is working a lot better with the zen time spinning my wheels, literally and figuratively.

But an hour here and there is personal time that we all need, not just away from technological communications, but from the yammering of the village that keeps your mind from wandering where it will go...

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@California Girl- I'm intrigued, too, by endless possibilities of interactive. But also wanting to know where the pause button is. I'm with you on turning off devices. Beeps, rings, alarms, alerts--maybe it's my age, but I can't be productive in atmosphere of aural miasma.

@Michael Bissell-I think it's a luxury we both have of being able to turn off and tune out, only possible because we work for ourselves. I agree with you totally about the yammering of the village. Biking is a great escape...unless, like me, you wheel around listening to your ipod which is also an iphone...

Alan Wolk said...

Part of it (and I'm not making this up, though I can't seem to remember where I read it) is that there's some sort of addictive rush you get when you receive an email, an @ message, a text.

And it is addictive. If I'm away from the phone for a few hours, I go rushing over to it, expecting... I'm not sure what-- that I've won the lottery? That Jennifer Aniston is emailing to say she saw my profile on Facebook and is waiting in a hotel room? It's never all that important. And yet we can't seem to do without it.

Which I guess is where the important people come in. They have someone checking 24/7, so if it is important, they'll know about it.

Remember private social networks? They were going to be the new, new thing. The digital equivalent of country clubs.

Never happened.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

I agree connectedness is physically addictive, Alan. (I saw that article, too, where the heck was it?) Falling off the grid even for an hour, we get the shakes, scrambling for a line to be pulled back in. But withdrawing now and then can be like hitting refresh. I had dinner with a bunch of people the other night where, for a good two hours, none of us pulled out a device other than a corkscrew. Getting up from the table I felt rejuvenated, as if I'd been to a spa.

I recall when you were travelling, you posted that you'd check in only an hour a day, rather than 24/7, and found you were far more efficient during that hour. I thought this an inspired plan, though don't know if I'd have the discipline for it.

Yea, the digital club thing. No one wanted to be the first to join, right? So nobody did. Days of the easy-VC internet boom.

Unknown said...

This one really made me think...and then it started to hurt so I thought I should 'get it all out' cathartic-ly (spelling??) in my blog...thanks for the inspiration ad broad!( if you want to read it)