Are you trapped in a digital labyrinth?
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. ~ Henry David Thoreau
Hello beautiful human,
How have you been? How are things in your life? Is life going hectic for you, or is it just at the right pace?
Do you like the title of this newsletter? Did it make you want to know what is a labyrinth, and what is a digital labyrinth? Well, this newsletter is all about it. Sit back, read and relax. First of all, a labyrinth is a fancy word for a maze. It is a connected set of paths where it is easy to forget your way. Do you remember the plastic pencil box which had those two balls with the maze? And you wanted to put the balls in the center before your friend snatched the box away from you? Well, yes, that is a mini-labyrinth.
(I first read the word labyrinth in John Green’s novel Looking for Alaska 7-8 years back. A trivial detail that is still fresh in my memory. Brace your heart for the rough turns if you plan to read it. It is not an easy story.)
“You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you'll escape one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”
~ John Green, Looking for Alaska.
What do you think is a digital labyrinth? A digital labyrinth is a big maze of digital items. It can be text files, photos, videos, audio, emails, social media accounts, and any other digital item. It is non-physical and we don’t even see it most of the time, so why am I bothered by it? When Google claimed its warning that my Google Drive is 95% full, I was shocked. I am not a big-time photographer, so what was in my Google Drive? Screenshots!
Now, before you judge me, I know I screenshot a lot. I screenshot every status update I like, or a writing prompt that will be interesting to write upon, or a painting that I can create when I get to painting, or maybe life updates of the people I am stalking. Please don’t judge me, I am human! I scrolled through the last 7-8 years of data stored in my Google Drive. There were funny and crazy moments with sad and happy memories. I would be laughing so hard at myself from the past, not in a mocking way but the I-know-I-have-done-some-crazy-shit way. Now I don’t want to hold on to it. I want to let those parts of my life rest in the past. I do not want to dishonor the journey that brought me here. I do not resonate 100% with the person I was even a month ago. It only makes sense to not hold on to those old parts of me.
I wanted to redeem myself, or rather detach myself with digital minimalism. My very close friend calls me a hoarder. If I could only not be bothered by it, I would have fought with him. The truth is I am bothered by it. I am trying to bring clarity and organization to my life. I cannot do it by ignoring the digital clutter I have collected in the last 7-8 years in my laptops and mobile phones. Internet is a big giant web with an endless stream of data. We are never formally taught how to extract information from data. Some of us are good at sifting, like my friend. Others are like me. We learn with experience and need to practice it every day to be good at it.
Apart from these massive photographs I have hoarded, there are books, ebooks, hundreds of email lists I have subscribed to, and thousands of saves across all my social media accounts! Yes, I know pretty much a hoarder. I keep it for future reference but I don’t know when will the future come to let go of all this. I can do it but I need time, time to quietly sift and sort, discard and keep, and be done with it.
So, here I am confessing to you beautiful human that I am working on it and it is my mid-year resolution to be digital-clutter-free by the end of 2021. Pretty ambitious of me, right? I don’t know where will I find that much time in my already jam-packed schedule but I hope that I will. The plan is to put half-hour every day to go through the digital data, make a strategy specific to the data type and clean it up. Another part of the plan is to stop activities that lead to this data collection in the first place. This is the challenging part. It requires being mindful of the daily data consumption. I am still developing this plan into actionable steps to get there. Would you keep me accountable so that I don’t fall off the wagon? I tend to deviate, so keep an eye on me, will you? I will be sharing a monthly update at the beginning of each month with the target and strategy. This month I am targeting clearing off my emails and unsubscribing from all email lists I don't read. I will update you on this progress next month.
From my bookshelf
I would suggest you read Thoreau’s Walden. I haven’t read the book myself. Guilty! But the praise I have heard for it, I cannot tell you how I wish I had more leisure time to sit, read it, and let it take me on the ride. It is about his experiment living alone. It would make an interesting read.
I embarked on the idea of minimalism and intentional living when I read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. It is a guide to clean up your space in a way that aligns with your true self and values. I have read it three times until now. Though I am not yet an expert at decluttering, the idea behind her book just blew my mind.
On the topic of the digital labyrinth, I would suggest you read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. Again guilty! I haven’t read the book. I have read the summary and others’ experiments with the 30 days digital declutter. It has given me some hope that I can get more organized in my pursuit of being digitally free. The book focuses on social media detox. I am running my experiments on it. I will let you know once I reach a practical solution for it.
Oh, the Digital Bondage! When shall thou let me go?
Enough of my play with words. Here are some quotes from the book that will blow your mind.
“Face-to-face conversation is the most human--and humanizing--thing we do. Fully present to one another, we learn to listen. It's where we develop the capacity for empathy. It's where we experience the joy of being heard, of being understood.”
“The more time you spend “connecting” on these services, the more isolated you’re likely to become.”
“when you avoid solitude, you miss out on the positive things it brings you: the ability to clarify hard problems, to regulate your emotions, to build moral courage, and to strengthen relationships.”
“You can’t, in other words, build a billion-dollar empire like Facebook if you’re wasting hours every day using a service like Facebook.”
“The cumulative cost of the noncrucial things we clutter our lives with can far outweigh the small benefits each individual piece of clutter promises.”
“It’s easy to be seduced by the small amounts of profit offered by the latest app or service, but then forget its cost in terms of the most important resource we possess: the minutes of our life.”
“Is Silicon Valley programming apps or are they programming people?” Cooper asks. “They are programming people,”
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, . . . was all about: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.”
“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
And if you like movies more than books, I suggest you watch the documentary The Social Dilemma. I liked the movie. It explains the whole getting-you-hooked-to-your-phone-with-dopamine-hits formula. Just a warning, you might feel guilty when you look at your phone the following week.
Conversations from my life
Me: I am not on Instagram right now.
S: Oh, that’s why there are no stories from you.
Me: Yeah, I have been on a break for about a week. I got hooked on my phone. I wanted an out.
S: Why is everyone blaming social media? Everyone I talk to tells the same story.
Me: Maybe it’s true. I just wanted to get off my Instagram addiction.
This is a conversation from last week. And today is my 12th day off of Instagram. It is challenging at first, but then it feels normal. When the triggers kick in, you feel uncomfortable. That uncomfortable feeling is the root cause of it. As a generation, we turn to social media because it is easy, at our fingertips, and so convenient. We have limited social skills. We cannot look the other person in the eye and tell them that uncomfortable truth; we text them. Again, guilty! And I wonder where it all started? Was it when Facebook was the hot topic in school, or when Instagram got popular in college, or just the time when emails and instant messaging came along? When did social media get roots inside of us? It feels dark, sad, and ironic - the thing that is supposed to be connecting us to others has disconnected us from ourselves?
Thoughts from my musings
Did you read Thoreau’s quote at the beginning?
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. ~ Henry David Thoreau
The amount of life exchanged for it - do you see the power of this statement? I cannot love it any less. I can only tell you how much I regret buying that cute top that was never my style. I kept it for five years, waiting for an occasion to wear it until I finally let it go. It is not the amount of money I paid for it that hurts me. Whenever I pulled it out, I felt guilty of coming into the words of a friend and buying it. I know I get easily influenced during shopping. Shopping was never my forte. I exchanged a lot of life - the moments when I thought about it, guilted over listening to another person, and put the top back on the shelf. That is the actual price of the top, not the one mentioned on the price tag. Remember that thing sitting at the back of the closet collecting dust?
Question for you
What is it that you collect a lot of that others don't understand?
From my diary
Thud! Thud! Thud!
The raindrops hit on the tin shade.
Drop! Drop! Drop!
The water drizzles in front of me.
I reached just in time!
I saved the clothes from getting wet.
I was under the shade.
The sound on tin shade was loud!
How loud it all was!
I got transported to the war zone.
I did not care to stay.
The rain had made it difficult for me.
I wept alone in silence,
For the motherland and the fighters,
The martyrs, the traitors,
The injured, the wounded, the deceased.
I am alive, other people dead.
I have moved on, but the trauma survives.
I got the idea for this poem when picking up clothes last evening. The sounds are what I experienced, but this is not my experience. It is the world we live in. The poem doesn’t go with the rest of the theme, I understand. But, what is so flowy in life that it always follows the same pattern?
Take care, beautiful human!
Stay safe, stay sane!
Sending lots of love your way,
Your writer friend,
Stay anonymous and get that burden off here.