Okay, let’s dive into the matrix together.
I think it’s pretty clear by my past Substack newsletters that I’m in a stage of life where I’m changing how I spend my time online.
I’ve been watching a lot of docs and reading a lot of articles about the toxic rabbit hole our society has gone down since the quick rise of tech and social media. It’s all morphed a lot in the last decade or so, and PHEW it’s a doozy of a situation. Yes, there is so much good, but there is also a lot of bad. I’m trying to unravel myself from that entanglement, while also doing my best to enjoy and experience all of the good parts social media has to offer.
An article that really brought things home for me was the main piece in the hardcopy of The Atlantic magazine’s March issue. It’s titled “We’re Already Living In The Metaverse: Reality is Blurred, Boredom is Intolerable, and Everything is Entertainment” by Megan Garber. It’s also available online under the title “We’ve Lost the Plot.”
This part of the article really smacked me in the face:
Social media has truly made each of us a performing self. “All the world’s a stage” was once a metaphor; today, it’s a dull description of life in the metaverse. As the journalist Neal Gabler foresaw in his book Life: The Movie, performance, as a language but also as a value, bleeds into nearly every facet of experience.
A recent H&M ad campaign promised that the brand would make sure that “you are the main character of each day.” In September, my partner booked a hotel room for a weekend trip; the confirmation email vowed that the stay would allow him to “craft your next story.” My iPhone is now in the habit of transforming photographs and videos from my camera roll into mini-movies. The bespoke videos come with a soundtrack selected by the operating system. They also come unprompted: I was recently served up a slideshow, set to strings that Ken Burns might appreciate, of pictures I’d taken of my dog. The aim, of course, is commercial. What better way to encourage customers to be loyal than to tell them their life should be a movie? A life so full that it gets optioned: the new American dream.
And also this:
In the future, the writers warned, we will surrender ourselves to our entertainment. We will become so distracted and dazed by our fictions that we’ll lose our sense of what is real. We will make our escapes so comprehensive that we cannot free ourselves from them. The result will be a populace that forgets how to think, how to empathize with one another, even how to govern and be governed.
That future has already arrived. We live our lives, willingly or not, within the metaverse.
This whole article made me feel A LOT of things. Along with worry, I felt sort of ashamed. I realized that even though I’m coming from a different artistic angle and standpoint, I don’t want to title a blog “My Life Is A Movie” when the truth of the matter is, my life shouldn’t “be a movie”. No one’s should.
So much of what is happening right now in our society is troublesome, and a lot of it can be traced back to the rise in tech and social media, advertising and algorithms, the manipulation of our minds for our attention and for our money.
I want to live in the REAL physical world as much as I can. I want that for all of us.
I did a rather unscientific poll on my Instagram stories (the irony is not lost on me), seeing how many people were using social media less than they used to.
Literally ZERO people chose “No, I love social media” and 85% of those who answered are purposely not online as much.
As someone who has been in the entertainment industry for 2 decades, I feel a great push and pull with the online world. It’s something that I’m just going to have to keep working through and navigating. I have a deep passion for sharing inspiration and artistry, and since I’m really only on Instagram these days, I’m going to keep sharing there for the pure joy of it. I’m also going to keep this Substack going (now called “Thoughts and Things” instead of “My Life is a Movie”) since I’ve had this email list for over a decade now, and it’s been a great way to stay connected to all of you.
If you’re interested in learning more about how social media and the internet in general are shaping our culture and our brains, here are some fantastic resources. I figured this would be a good April share for my favorite “things” portion of “Thoughts and Things”.
As mentioned earlier, “We’re Already Living in the Metaverse” by Megan Garber in The Atlantic.
“How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind” by Tristen Harris, former design ethicist at Google.
“Even Influencers are Scared of the Internet” also titled “The Influencer Warning Us About the Internet” by Katherine Hu in The Atlantic
“The Social Dilemma” (Netflix)
“The Great Hack” (Netflix)
“Fake Famous” (HBO)
“Stolen Focus” by Johann Hari
"Big-name websites and apps strive to distract because that's the key to profitability. When we're looking at our screens, these companies make money; when we're not, they don't. . . . It's a call to arms, to be sure, and I'm tempted to tell my Twitter followers about it--but I've deleted the app from my phone."--The Washington Post
"A gripping analysis of why we've lost the capacity to concentrate, and how we might find it again. Stolen Focus won't just capture your attention--it will keep you thinking and rethinking long after you've finished it. Johann Hari is one of the most insightful critics of our modern malaise, and he's written the book the world needs in order to win the war on distraction."--Adam Grant
There’s a lot more out there on this very wide ranging topic, but these are a great place to start.
Oh, and also the new show Mrs. Davis coming out on Peacock April 20th. It’s a wild ride centered on faith vs. technology.
I know these favorite things weren’t really things that “inspire artistry” as the tagline for this blog states. That being said, I think they are things that will help you shift focus and perhaps find more time and space for creativity in your physical life, away from an algorithm. They’ve definitely helped me.
See you all next month.
P.S. Please don’t reply directly to this email, there is a glitch in the matrix (aka. Substack) and I’m not receiving email replies. Instead please leave a comment, or email me at email@example.com
P.P.S. We all need less clutter in our lives, so if at any point this newsletter isn’t adding value to your life and your email inbox, please absolutely feel completely free to unsubscribe. :)
*main article photo by me, of me, in the good ol’ digital landscape
Thanks for sharing those articles. I'm going to read them the moment this is posted.
But before I do, I thought you might find these interesting. It's easy to pin a lot of the problems on social media because it's the most recent iteration, but it's not even close to the start. Check out:
Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent:
Edward Bernays's "Propoganda"
More on Bernays and his influence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays
He basically invented advertising as we know it and he used a lot of psychology to manipulate people into making the choices he was paid to promote.
Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique"
She was a journalist who noticed a trend in what she was being asked to write. Her book is much bigger and more profound than that, but what she has to say about the media (advertising and otherwise) is POWERFUL!
P.S. Please keep writing these. As always, I find your thought deep and fascinating.
I support you, but it also scares me how fast technology is evolving. You're absolutely right, it's hard to make sense of it all - what's bad and what's good. It's starting to give me a headache.