We have been had! Slaves to the desires of the virtual world
“You can checkout anytime you like, but you can never leave”
–The Eagles, Hotel California
I closed my computer and walked outside the little caravan in the beautiful French countryside. There is a slight breeze, rustling leaves, sun rays peeking through the tall trees, bird chirping, flowers blooming, and suddenly I am in the real world. I like this world, far more than the one I just left in my laptop. I want to be here more, away from the storm raging in my head and in my computer. This is a vibrant, sensual, simpler existence.
In my computer there are responsibilities, problems and emails to be answered, literally another world. As virtual as this world may be, it is very real to me and it physically pushes me around, makes my heart beat faster and my anxiety levels to rise. It is certainly a darker world. If I was to describe it, it is sort of grey with fuzzy pictures of the problems and situations and it flashes red at regular intervals. It is a world that takes over when I hear the ding of a new message or see my phone blinking. It is also a world that amplifies what is going on. A small problem manifests as a catastrophe that cannot be easily surmounted.
As I try to concentrate on the chapter I am writing, my errant brain wants to jump into the inconsequential email that just arrived and answer it instantly. Anxiety is rising the longer I wait. Briefly I pause to consider the consequences of responding tomorrow or even next week. Will slowing the speed of our exchange make the recipient less stressed as well, or will they get mad at me and think that I am ignoring them? Perhaps it is something that can’t wait, so open it. Of course, it is nothing, really and truly nothing. I am in France and it is about an event in London, one, I am not even interested in. The price? I lost my train of thought and have to read what I was writing from the beginning.
This virtual world is also a cruel one. A world we use to torture ourselves and create jealousies and misunderstandings. Messages written quickly and unthoughtfully without the benefit of a human face or the touch of a hand. Communications that produce the wrong impressions and create distance rather than build bridges. Sometimes I feel lost and overwhelmed in this world that is not entirely mine, or one I fully comprehend.
Without the benefit of touch, vision or hearing, it is a world of attributing feelings that are not there and magnifying situations that could have been resolved with a few explanatory words. Despite my profound dislike of emoticons, I have found that I use them more and more in my communications to fill the gaps of what I am trying to convey.
I strain to trick this world and its siren sounds and flashing red and green messages. I hide my apps in folders, disable their notifications, sometimes ruthlessly delete them entirely, but their world is still with me beckoning at first and then, demanding that I return.
I upgraded my laptop not that long ago. The old one, was so old, it could only run Word. On it I could sit undisturbed for hours writing my books and articles. Then it gave up the ghost. Now I have a snazzy new MacBook that can multitask marvellously and prides it self with the many ways that it can distract me. I am always thinking of ways to outwit it, or is it to outwit myself and the virtual world that I occupy most of the day?
And then there is Instagram and Facebook giving my virtual world, substance, colour and a whole pretend social network. It makes me feel connected, but at the same time it is superficial contact, the kind that can evaporate without guilt or regret. It gives me the tools to present my life in a perfect light and hide what is beneath. Even though I am acutely aware that others are doing it too, I cyberstalk them and envy their perfect pretend lives and my virtual world becomes even darker. It also becomes quicker. To keep up with the speed, I have to set the real world aside. When my kids, my friends and my lover talk to me, I have one foot still in my virtual world. A message from anyone, is more pressing than what I am seeing and hearing in the real world in front of me.
I am in chains and so are you. All of you. What started as wonderful convenience, now has us all firmly in its grip. We drank the potion and fell in the rabbit hole.
“Internet is a demon which eventually kills all the emotions inside human heart. Not to mention everything is already virtual.”
― Gurusharan Singh