Sunday 17 October 2021

Nerd Church - There's So Much Noise

The world is full of noise, right now.

We manage to make a lot of noise which is only partly literally audible.

But the world is full of noise, all the same.

'There's So Much Noise' with a silhouette sitting in front of a static-filled screen

I guess it always was.

It's just that we gave each other (metaphorical) megaphones and made it a shouting contest.

And then we beamed those megaphones into your homes, your businesses, the palms of your hands, 24 hours a day.

It can be a bit much, can't it?

Like, there's so much information and just general stuff out there that it can be difficult to know what to do with it all.

And there's only one of me - only one of you.

Our technology has overtaken what our brains have evolved to deal with.

And our societies are even further behind on the evolution front. We find ways to argue about every little thing - and every big thing - while the planet literally burns.

Dr Anna Machin - a smart evolutionary anthropologist science-y type - says this in her article 'Technology is Threatening Our Species' Survival':

'Humans are remarkable for their innovation. We are uniquely able to build on the inventiveness of previous generations in a way that drives an exponential rate of technological development. But recent technology may be developing so fast that the complex and critical neurological processes we rely on for well-being simply can’t evolve fast enough. Our technological evolution is outstripping our biological evolution.

Where once technology and biology existed in harmony for the good of the species, they are now in conflict. Where once our tools fulfilled their remit to make our lives more efficient, they may no longer be overwhelmingly beneficial. When this asymmetry falls within the social domain, as it does with social media and with A.I., the personal consequences can be devastating. The whole point of human relationships is that they are not efficient, because they take time and brain power to develop and maintain — but in return we receive the reward of powerful neurochemicals and benefits to our health. We cannot abdicate this responsibility to a machine.'

(TL; DR - we built something so incredibly smart and efficient, that we're unable to cope with it.)

Our weird squiggly hooman brains weren't made to handle the things we have created as a species.

In the last 20-30 years, our technology has developed exponentially.

But our brains are pretty much the same as they were when we were hanging out in trees, or building pyramids, or putting arsenic in our wallpaper and carbon monoxide in our lighting (dammit Victiorians, how did anyone survive the 19th Century?!)

Our brains were intended for physical, day-to-day, survival-type sh**.

We evolved to be good at growing produce, farming animals, hunting animals, chopping wood, making sh** out of other sh**, and making more of ourselves to keep the whole thing going. *coughs awkwardly*

We haven't evolved to deal with social media - because it's something that's only been invented within living memory.

But social media has evolved to deal with us. Because that's exactly what it was designed to do.

And that's not some big 'social media is trying to rule us and undermine democracy' conspiracy thing - no, it's far more simple, and far more terrifying than that:

People will always find a way to exploit technology for money or power. (Not that those two things can be separated in many instances.)

Put simply: Social media is trying to sell you sh**.

Sure, that's not all it does - far from it. 

But that's the aim of the companies behind it (because... they're companies. #CapitalismForYa)

The fact that this is still a surprise to so many of us is simply proof that we need to invest more heavily in education - especially media studies.

(Yes, especially media studies. If there's a subject that the ruling classes don't want you to take... there's often a reason. #JustSaying.)

It's not just social media - the Internet and media as a whole rely on a mix of urgency, immediacy, fear of missing out (FOMO) and provocation of extreme emotional responses to keep us clicking and consuming.

Everything from news outlets to Netflix are vying for our valuable, advertiser-and-or-subscription-purchasing-friendly, attention.

And when you appeal to the more extreme sides of human nature... it very much becomes about who can shout the loudest, in order to get your attention.

And of course the other golden rule of humanity (besides 'people will sell you sh**'): someone, somewhere, will break it.

And not always 'break it' in a bad way (though there's certainly plenty of that,) - but just by finding ways of using a platform which it wasn't intended for, we are, to a degree, 'breaking it.' 

We're coming up with things that no-one foresaw, so no-one can plan for.

And the unpredicted side-affect of the meshing of a system that our brains struggle to cope with, with the general ability of humanity to come up with some random sh**, has resulted in noise.

So. Much. Noise.

Which, just occasionally, it's probably a good idea to log out of, and turn off.

And just let our brains work things through, for a little while. In the quiet.

This is one of those posts that I didn't really plan and just kind of... *waves hands vaguely* ...happened - so hopefully you found it interesting!

Thoughts? Complaints? Requests that I always plan my posts in future to avoid a repeat performance? 
(I mean, you can ask, I guess...)
Talk to me! 😅💬

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  1. I find the FOMO aspect of social media and just media in general to be very stressful. I found this the most when social media activism became more popular in the summer of 2020. Suddenly I felt the need to keep clicking and clicking to get to the next resource, the next news article, the next update. Social media can be helpful, but it can also be a hinderance for those affected by news stories.

    1. I totally feel you on that - I'm forever berating myself for not doing 'enough.' You need to take care of yourself, first. And sometimes that means logging out and switching off!

  2. "It's just that we gave each other (metaphorical) megaphones and made it a shouting contest. [...] We find ways to argue about every little thing - and every big thing - while the planet literally burns."
    Oh so true.
    I love Twitter because it allows me to keep in touch with my bookish friends (and to get updates about the handful of celebrities I really care about - usually people who have something to say beyond promoting their work), and the way I use it, it's like my little private bubble. But for many people social media are...something else. And the article you quoted is really interesting.

    1. Thank you <3

      I try to use my profile page as 'home,' rather than my home feed, because it doesn't keep updating constantly and distracting me. Lately I've also tried to only go on socials after lunch - means I get more done!

  3. This is all so very true. In some ways, I feel like a much better informed citizen than I was when I was younger, before social media was a thing, but I'm also much more stressed out about what's happening in the world!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. So true! - I think we need to try and strike a balance... but as this is so new, in the scale of human history, it's gonna take us some trial-and-error!


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