Posting on social media, after all, is a means of narrativizing our own lives: What we’re telling ourselves our lives are like.
The metaphors cyberpunk employed to explore our increasingly intimate relationship with technology, meanwhile, are as apt as ever. Our smartphones function as pseudo-cybernetic attachments, as artificial memory, GPS system, and dopamine deliverer. “Cyberpunk is a genre that said new technologies will colonise our bodies and interpenetrate our lives, like Molly in Neuromancer with her sunglasses literally inset into her face,” says Adam Roberts, science fiction writer and professor at Royal Holloway. “The reality is that technology has colonised not so much our bodies as our social interactions, with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on – with far-reaching consequences.”
I’ve come to think of software applications as a form of digital architecture: some are places of concentration, others of collaboration, others clearly just for fun. Software’s emotional dimension is crucial: how it feels dictates how it’s used. (Architects hire environmental psychologists; tech companies hire user-experience researchers.) Microsoft Word is the quiet room at the university library; personal Gmail is a dirty kitchen, yesterday’s plates stacked next to the sink; Twitter is an overcrowded bar. Throughout the day, I’ll move from room to room, alternating between solitude and socializing, work and play.
When I look out across a sea of a hundred thousand people
Attending a concert
A gathering of connection, a gathering of people singing together
Enjoying music together
I sometimes feel the audience is not human
I sometimes feel that the audience is, in fact, a sea of telephones
I sometimes feel that the humans are there simply to transport the telephones to the show
And one part of me is devastated by that
The other part of me understands
That the human species has always evolved in a feedback loop with the objects that we have created
We made flints and then we redesigned ourselves
To manipulate the flints; the flints redesigned us
We made smartphones
And the smartphones redesigned us
"The explosion of the personality into multiple internet selves has opened up many people, including myself, to a lot of heartache. Self-dissipation becomes self-dissatisfaction. I spent years scattering myself into personality fragments on many different websites until I couldn't locate my whole self anywhere. These personality fragments became deeply embedded into distant servers. I felt that my persona had expanded out beyond my reach or control. The internet can contain that expanded personality, but that personality belongs to the internet and is not a part of your own body. You cannot possibly be ready to back up who you are on the internet with your own body because that internet self is not your body - its the internet's body. It takes work to accept that your personality is actually your own body. It takes language, all your senses, the repeated use of conceptual tools, teachers, rituals, failures, and some serious discipline to grow the self that is limited to your body. With any growth comes the possibility of dysfunction through dissipation. Our challenge today is to gather up those internet fragments and align them into a whole individual."
~ Kev Bewersdorf (http://extinct.ly/participants/#kev-bewersdorf)
In a sense, technology has created an extension of our self. So lately, I've been thinking of ways I can practice more digital self-care, and how to form a better relationship with my devices. I've been ending the day with closing all my tabs (noting which ones I want to revisit the next day), clearing up or organizing anything that I download onto my desktop or downloads folder, and then shutting down my laptop. Something about this action creates a signal to my mind and body to transition into stillness & rest, and I love the mental clarity and comfort that I feel at the end of the night.