Moving abroad to have a peaceful mind but dealing with panic attacks instead. Because also in Portugal the whole world enters through Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, notifications,… And they are unstoppable. Fuck me, I’m screwed.
I noticed that these anxieties coincide with periods in which I am posting & updating a lot. Focusing longer than one page on a novel becomes a challenge, as well as remembering things in the long run. Or writing. Writing on dopamine doesn’t work for me.
While writing this, the blue Word Icon is jumping up and down my screen, asking my attention, my phone lets me know who’s birthday it is, how many steps I did today, that plastic waste is a problem, and that it’s time for a wax session…Really my phone is an attention whore.
And the thing with attention is that- the way we use it, determines our reality. What we are blind for and what we see. Which is a scary thought knowing we grab our phone every free minute of the day. What is left to see? And what effect does this have on our brain? I live in the middle of nature but I am often so tired, tired, tired….
It also affects my relationship with Davy because my focus is shattered over the whole medium and somewhere in between I see my husband on the beach talking to me from real life and it is this constant shifting between the digital world and the real world with its real responsibilities that make me anxious. It reminds me of those computer nerds with names like Candy483 who feel all-powerful in their digital dungeon but are afraid to talk with the guy from the grocery department.
Technology helpful? Think again
That smartphone comes in handy to distract you from ‘the daily stress’, right? No. It’s more about instant gratification because, in the end, those games & endless news facts strain your neural system. Getting nervous?
Secondly, all that low stimuli input is superficial & fast going, which means that in-depth topics hardly reach our long-term memory where they can be processed. Pling, plong, gone, what, profound, huh?! Losing control?
Thirdly, the abyss between the beautiful, unique, normal person that you are and the person on your profile picture is becoming huge. Nobody talks about their money debts, pain-in-the-ass-children, bad health, fucked up relationship or antidepressants on the bedside table… We are amateur curators who created an avatar of something we can never be. Feeling lost?
And finally, Google Maps, Shazam, Financial advice, apps for losing weight,… Handy? How much longer are we going to hide behind that car selling trick?? How much chance do you give a child that never learned to think for himself but gets everything canned or scripted by its parents? We don’t learn the skills anymore to deal with insecure/ social situations. The intimacy of a relationship is becoming more and more a problem… Just look around. Feeling insecure?
So that’s the problem I am dealing with. Why is it so hard to stop scrolling, checking social media? “Researchers from the Hammersmith Hospital discovered that war games stimulate the same neurotransmitters in our brains as addictive drugs,” John K. Kriger writes in his book Turned On, Tuned Out. Okay, maybe some more research should be done but I am not going to bide my time for it. Addiction not only overrules our priorities (laundry, groceries, playing with kids, getting out of/ into bed,…) but also undermines our judgement, because of the compulsiveness of the addiction.
Kriger writes about a woman that ends up in the freezing water while walking down a pier, texting. And about a man in a public toilet justifying his online porn addiction, saying he wants to divorce her. Is that normal?? “Technology is so hard-wired into our brain that we justify & accept it as normal,” he says, “ But it ain’t.”
Conclusion: we’re all anxious
“Today’s public secret is that everyone is anxious, “ writes We are Plan C on its website, “Anxiety has spread from its previous localized locations (such as sexuality) to the whole of the social field. It is the result of a neoliberal culture where everything needs to be excited & fun. It is the capitalistic answer to boredom under Fordist times, that offered excitement and unpredictability.*
With boredom you have to find something to fill up the space, Anxiety is the result of having no more space left: the downside of a life full of car selling tricks, of a life where you can’t miss out things, and especially a life that has nothing much to do with what we really want from life. We’re consuming (apps, music, movies, promotions,…).
It is the reversed idea of the beauty of a vulnerable life where a slow pace & quietness reboots your body & mind. Virtues Neoliberals quickly associated with tedium & hippies. And conditioned as we are, we also use these stereotypes when we think of nature, body and mind.
“It is crucial,” writes We are Plan C, “ that the left puts anxiety on the political agenda.” I am thinking about less working hours, an equal distribution of wealth through technology, basic income, more green in our city centres and public spaces, and fewer cars, rules inspections, privatization, cameras. Because that is where the real fear is coming from no? Precarity?
But that isn’t going to happen. “Truth is that this will continue until the neoliberal state explodes,” tells my old main editor. He’s right. The world is going banana’s and in the meantime, we’re acting like anxious ostriches with our head in the digital ground.
It is the reversed idea of the beauty of a vulnerable life where a slow pace & quietness reboots your body & mind.
Note to self
Sorry for all the negativity on social matters but there is a lot you can do on a personal level. Like, not acting like a scared ostrich. This is a list I made and that I tend to keep. Guess what? It helps.
- Realize that, when you are scrolling all the time you lose your connection with people. If you don’t know the way, ask it. If you want to make a reservation, make the phone call. Don’t buy online and go out. Don’t text but call…
- Prioritize (possible if you’re not addicted): leave that smartphone at home once and a while. Leave him in your bag or pocket when you go to a bar. Don’t take him with you on the toilet or in the bath.
- Remember that it affects your memory: go to the library (hmm, silence) for your research, buy a book (hmm, on a slow pace, an exercise in patience), try to figure things out yourself without using Google. A good soldier knows how to handle things.
- Think about how you want to spend your time: is it worth to feel guilty for not replying a message or mail when you can spend it with your lover or kids? Don’t grab for that phone when you have a few minutes of time but check on yourself, enjoy the moment. Let your head relax.
- Your phone is a utility model so use it for emergencies, short phone calls, agenda, flashlight, alarm,… only when you need its ‘attention’ and not the other way round.
- Realize it doesn’t bring peace of mind. Stop watching cat video’s and get yourself a cat in the house.
- Disconnect from Facebook or Instagram every now and then.
- Write a real letter. Amazing how happy people are with it. Have sex, spend time in nature, plant flowers in the garden, masturbate, go to a museum or a play, get yourself a face mask, listen to podcasts, do sport…
We moved to Portugal to have more time for ourselves, to be able to be ourselves. It is sad one has to move from his roots to do that. So those anxieties also come from a process where I have to deal with my conditioned habits. A lot of things I did my whole life, seem absurd now. Transforming is a confusing period. I sometimes think that whoever wants to live conscious needs to have a psychotherapist be her side because it’s a hard path to follow. I guess panicking is not so weird then. For me, yoga & meditation help to reboot. Focusing on what my body & mind wants. A simple goal straight from the heart. Sounds boring, tedious and for hippies? Ha, how come?