Seek nothing outside of yourself


#1

I decided to delete my journal and start again. I wanted to take a more reflective approach and talk about my life in a personal way which I wouldn’t have had the courage to do if @anthymn wasn’t so open and honest about herself in all her posts.

Chapter 1: The first screen in my life

I was born in south India, in a fairly rural area. I lived there until I was about 3, mostly at my paternal grandfathers house and then occasionally at my other set of grandparents as that was the custom. I was the first grandchild on either side so they spoiled me completely. I remember being fed cakes, sweets, given any toy I wanted and just constantly being happy as a kid. Incidently I was also quite fat from this lifestyle and resembled a ball of dough around this age. Sadly this happy time period in my life didn’t last that long. When I was about 3 years old I moved with my mom, dad, and recently born sister to Dubai. I think this is where some of the negative parts in my later life started. I went from living in a beautiful tropical paradise, in two lovely homes to a small apartment in a desert wasteland. In that time period Dubai wasn’t the sprawling metropolis it is now. It was still developing. This laid the groundwork for a lot of later resentment in my life towards my immediate family. I think part of me hated leaving India and my grandparents to live the typical poor immigrant lifestyle, when I had it so good where I was born.

But I was still to young to be seriously angry so I got over any feelings I had quickly. I had something to help me do this: a TV. This was the first time in my life that I remember encountering a screen. For the first time in my short life I wasn’t surrounded by loving family and friends 24/7 and instead I was forced to spend a lot of time alone indoors with my mom. (it was too hot to be outside in dubai most days). There wasn’t much to do there so she would let me watch TV. I remember sitting for hours hooked on cartoons. Bugs Bunny, Looney Toons, Tom & Jerry. I’m very thankful I grew up in that era and not this one. At least the programming was good and I don’t think it did much mind rot.

At this point the screen time was mostly passive and not quite an addiction. I thankfully had other things to do when the programs ended. A lot of my family still worked in Dubai so they would frequntly come over for parties and during the evenings. I also had two friends Vyshak, and his older sister Shilpa who were a few years older than me. I remember doing stupid but fun kid stuff with them in the halls of our apartment complex. I haven’t seen them since I moved from Dubai when I was 6 so it makes me really sad and nostalgic to write about them. I wonder where they are now?


#2

Chapter 2: Playstation, Sega Dreamcast, and the arcade in the laundromat

At age 6 I came to America. I quickly learned english and made a few friends from the neighboring apartments. This was when I had my first contact with the addictive aspects of technology. My friends all had playstations or sega dreamcasts and were obsessed a game called Rival Schools made by Capcom (kind of like Street Fighter). I quickly grew addicted to mashing buttons and the immediate feedback they provided. When my friends weren’t around to play I’d go to the local laundromat and plunk down quarters to play the version on the arcade. Crowds of kids would gather and we’d compete to see who could stay on the longest. I remember one day I lasted almost 20 rounds and the electric high that came from having a lot of people watch you play something and winning.

I think that’s why games are so addictive. You quickly acquire skill which creates pride in yourself.

At this point I was limited to playing at my friends homes or the amount of quarters my mom would give me so I still wasn’t fully addicted yet. This meant that I actually spent a lot of my free time at the local public library which was down the block from my house. I remember poring over books about dinosaurs, the ocean, and popular childrens tales like “The Rainbow Fish” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

These early interactions with the library were some of the happiest times in my life. I quickly got swept up in reading and became obsessed with Sci Fi and fantasy. While I still look back with romantic views of the time period I now realize that in some sense reading purely fiction can be just as mindless as watching netflix. There’s a lot more benefits but at the end of the day it’s still a form of entertainment. I wish that I would have at least read a few non fiction books in that time period. Now I try to keep it at a ratio of 1:1.


#3

Chapter 3: I lose my love for reading without being aware of it.

I fondly remember waiting in line at the book store with hundreds of other people for the release of the latest Harry Potter book. I was never a patient person. I would go home and read the book with an obssessive focus I can’t ever recall applying to anything else in my life. I would only tear my eyes away to eat and use the bathroom and eventually sleep. In less than a day I could get through a 1,000 pages with that focus.

I haven’t been able to get back to that level of intensity and speed but I still can dream.

This period in my life was my favorite. I mostly read fiction and I recall being very happy. Then one day I signed up for AOL Instant Messenger to talk with my friends from school. Suddenly I was indoors most of the time firing of rapid messages back and forth between dozens of my friends from school. The computer was in my parents room so I would eventually get kicked off but I would remember rushing back just to see what messages I got while I was away. My brain quickly became a flurry of frenzied multitasking.

On top of this my parents finally caved to my incessent whining and bought me an XBox so I could play Halo and Call of Duty 4. My addiction intensified. It was so bad that I would remember sitting there restless during 8th period thinking about going home to fire up my console. I remember iterating through all the classes I could use and the possible combinations. The m16 with a red dot sight? The silence mp5?

With the knowledge I have now it’s clear that this was a very dopamine driven activity. Sadly the books I cherished just couldn’t match this level of stimulation. Before I knew it, it had been several years since I recall sitting down and reading a book from cover to cover. I remember feeling them dry and listless but I couldn’t even remember the love I once had for them. By the time I was a senior in high school the only reading I did was the required reading for school. The process was so gradual and slow to occur though that it seemed natural. I can see others thinking that it occured because they aged and perhaps their interests changed. Or perhaps the material just got harder as they got older.

I’m very interested to know how Nicholas Carr was able to pinpoint these effects, having experienced similar, to his internet use. I hope to ask him one day soon. :cool:


#4

Chapter 4: I wish I had the courage to be an absolute nobody

Early on in high school I was a shy kid with a small group of friends. I remember wishing that I was more popular and part of the “cool kids”. I wanted to be invited to parties and all the other things the popular kids did. Somewhat accidental I got exactly what I wished for but it turned out that it was one of those things that seems great on the surface but actually kind of sucks once you experience it.

It turns out that people with very high social status who seem like they’re the happiest people in the world are often miserable and care deeply what others think about them. We all know this on an inutive level but feeling it and experiencing it is a much different story. Then being cognizant enough and having the will to break out of the “trap” that we find ourselves in is a much different story.

For me I broke out the trap through sheer luck it was kind of bizzare to find out that people were jealous of me in high school and college because of the social status that I had.

I was deeply unhappy during those times but everyone else around me wanted to be me.

I couldn’t help but think how much of this unhappiness was connected to social media and the constant fear in my mind of what other people thought about it. It seemed like there was a microscope on my life where everyone was constantly monitoring my movements and I had to present the absolute perfect picture to everyone on the other side.

One of the things I realized later on was that nobody gives a shit about you. Once again, something I knew on an intuitive level but not something I grasped until I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I never once spared more than a few thoughts a day to anyone besides myself. So it seems ridiculous to care so excessively what that other people think about you when they in fact never think about you at all. Even people we are very close to might spare 5% of their day thinking about us. The rest not at all.

It’s not a bad thing. It’s actually incredibly freeing to not be subject to whims of peer approval and be able to operate however you want.

But then why do i care so much what people think of me? From a primitive standpoint being part of the pack, the tribe, or any group was extremely beneficial for our survival. Our ability to work in teams and support each other helped us survive. If we were kicked out of the tribe, there was a very good chance that we would die due to lack of resources and shelter. No one survived in cavemen times on their own. Therefore those who did things to keep their status in the tribe high and positive were the ones who would survive and pass on their genes.

This means that most of alive today have it ingrained in us through evolution to care what people in our social circles think about us. These feelings are extremely strong and powerful and are designed to help us survive.

It was upsetting to me as I realized my biology isn’t geared to make me happy but subjects me to the highs and lows of emotion so that I will be more likely to pass on my genetic material.

I’m fairly confident that social media has been able to “hijack” this primitive feature of my biology. Whereas before it was just the people in my family, my close friends social platforms extends this real world need for social approval/fear of disapproval to everyone on the internet.

It’s not that it just hijacks the response but it concentrates it even further through technology. Like how technology has been able to refine and concentrate the effects of opium into heroin. So the pulls of social status created by social media are far stronger than what we experience in real life. In real life we can escape occasionally at home or when we choose solitude. Social media never gives us that opportunity.

This is why the most popular people tend to be the most miserable because they are constantly monitoring their social status via social media. They’re concerned to be photographed with people who aren’t as cool or as good looking. They’re concerned that their photos are the tiniest bit unflattering and that everyone following them has seen it. They have to weigh the choices between deleting the picture, or the embarrassing post but then having everyone know they cared that much about their image that they would do something like that. Every night out has to be documented and put on facebook or instagram so that others know and rank me higher in the social sphere. There’s no way to use social media and not be ranked. Every post, every picture is subject to the ranking of your peers by the metrics facebook, Instagram, and twitter have put into place.

I still remember the embarrassment I felt when after the first semester of freshman year my facebook wall had nothing to make it seem like my social life was great in college. I remember feeling inferior after going on my friends walls seeing them having a blast and partying non stop. (Now I realize they probably had it worse than me). I also remember feeling good again when my social life picked back up and suddenly my social media made it seem like I was a cool, awesome person who had tons of fun 24/7.

When I was on social media I was constantly subject to the push and pull of invisible social forces that don’t really exist. It’s the elephant and the twig. You can hijack a elephants psychology and keep it held in place with a mere twig. It doesn’t know it’s just a twig though. Likewise, the forces of social media are nonexistant but they seemed “very 'real” to me due to vulnerabilities in my human psychology.

Now that I’m off social media, I no longer feel those affects. I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who cares what people think about me. Some of it has to be attributed to Stoicism + Buddhist practices but deleting social media was the necessary condition to get to that state.


#5

Several weeks ago I told my two fellow mods @stdin_stdout_stderr and @Anthymn that I was dependent on a software called K9 Web Protection to reign in my internet addiction. Naturally, when a nosurfer figured out a loophole to get around the software and asked if there was a solution, they decided to inform me about it. :sweat_smile:

Of course they were trying to help the member by asking me if I knew how to close the loophole but the end result was that now I found about the loophole which has essentially rendered the software useless. I must be careful now, not to let down my guard around Konrad and Ava because if I do, I might go the same way as Mufasa or Caesar.

The good thing is that I’m quite crafty and can’t be defeated that easily. I found a software called Chomper, which performs a similar function on the Linux operating system. So this week I will be installing Ubuntu on my computer and then installing Chomper. The cool thing is that Chomper was created by a NoSurfer so I’ll reach out to him and tell him that I’m trying it as well as give him some feedback

Onward. :sun_behind_small_cloud:


#6

My experiment with Linux failed. The Chomper filter actually does something different than I envisioned. I wanted something that could filter vast swaths of the internet like K9 but it operates more like Cold Turkey.

So for now I’m using the internet completely on a white list with cold turkey. This means I only have access to the 10-15 sites I access most frequently or are essential utilities. This site, email, google docs, amazon etc.

This has actually been going great so far. Most of my use cases for the internet are constrained within a handful of sites.

I’ve also been experimenting with using two different computers for different uses. I use my universities computer when I have to write. I find it’s much easier to focus there so I want to classically condition myself to associate that place with writing. I then use my laptop for everything else I need to do there. I also still have the Ubuntu partition if need to access any of the sites on my white list. It doesn’t have my home WiFi connected (complex password) so I can only use outside of the house.

I realize that this system must seem bizarre and over the top to anyone who’s not an internet addict but I really do have to go to these lengths to keep my use under control.

I also got an iPhone this week I want to give it a few days before I post about how that’s affected the system.

————

What’s been on my mind a lot this week is how important social connection is. I started thinking about it more and more after I made the importance of community post but I finally started to see a clear connection between my current state and the lack of social involvement I once had. In the past I approached it from a stoic stand point and just viewed it as something I had to deal with until I my health problems improved but now I see it as the other way around. I have to stop isolating myself and I need to seek friendship and a social life again so that I can improve. The way I felt when I was with my family and close friends were around these last few weeks made me realize how much of a beneficial impact friends and family can have on you.

So I’m leaving my cave. I’m returning to join the Populatii. :muscle:t6: :v:t6:


#7

I 100% agree. I think social interaction is so important in our lifes; we, as a species, depend on it. But it’s easy to forget that fact, when we spend most of our time in front of our PC/Phone/etc. Especially because the internet allows us to interact with people as well. I mean, this right now, being on this forum, this is a social interaction as well, right? But I don’t think that’s enough. What’s really important is “real”, face-to-face, human interaction.
I’m currently struggling with that as well. Making new friends and/or reconnecting with old friends in incredibly tough but it’s so important to our well being that it’s not something that we should ignore!


#8

From what I know from studies the one common thread that ties together people who are - for a lack of a better word - happy are strong social bonds. If you could have only one thing in your life you should wish for good relationships.


#9

So it sounds kind of lame but I was looking into apps like Tinder or Bumble but for meeting new people in the regards of friendships rather than dating. It reminds me how back in the day internet dating was seen as an embarrasing thing but now it’s a social norm. I guess I’m still in that stage of being slightly embarrased of telling people I’m using an app to make friends :rofl:

But from a practical standpoint it does make a lot of sense. Also, turns out my friend is actually working on one of the teams building one of the apps so I thought that was cool. The two apps I found are called “Patook” and “We3”. I just downloaded them, haven’t set them up or anything but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Yeah I completely agree, as I’ve gotten older some of close bonds I use to have, have faded. I’m trying to rekindle some of those relationships as well as make new ones right now. The good thing is that the relationships I do still retain today are very high in quality and people I’ll be friends with for life.

On one level the sustained period of loneliness has been good for me because it showed me very independent and self reliant. I’m comfortable being alone whereas when I was younger in college, being alone at night on a weekend gave me a very sad feeling. Not having friends to talk to 24/7 like in college was hard to deal with but it gave me time alone to actually think and learn about myself from a philosophical standpoint.

I don’t think however that sustained loneliness like this is good for me or people in general.


#10

In the past I talked a bit about trying to build a social life again. It turns out that this is really difficult as an adult.

I’ve always had a big social circle and have fairly good social skills but at the end of the day if you live out in the suburbs and all the people your age are in the city it’s very difficult to meet anyone. Also when there aren’t many things to do /money is a factor, you have a lot of constraints on your potential social life.

Since most of my friends are out in NYC priority number 1 would obviously be to get there as well but until then I have to be creative and figure out how to have some semblance of a social life.

Funnily enough I tried a few apps like Tinder but for making friends. They weren’t that successful though. Basically friendship is much less incentivized that getting laid so I’m skeptical if apps like these can succeed although I do think they are a good use case of technology.

What has been going well is reconnecting with some of my old friends from college who are still nearby. Friendships are kind of like gardens, they need constant maintenence to stay healthy and strong. There have been some people who were once my really good friends that are now complete strangers. It makes me think of a line I heard by Nas when I was a kid “A thug changes, and love changes, and best friends becomes strangers.”

The reality of the statement didn’t hit me til now. At the same time a lot of the people I truly cared about, my two roomates from college, a handful of friends from high school are still around and I’m in contact with them. All of them are far away though.

What’s been keeping me occupied now is something I loved as a kid: badminton. Growing up in India this was one of the most popular sports and something I played everyday. I recently found a place with indoor courts somewhat near me and have started playing with friends. Badminton’s fun because the learning curve is really short so even people who aren’t naturally athletic can have fun their first time. It’s so nice to have people around you who are genuinely warm and make you feel comfortable and happy. It reminds me of the circle I had in college.

I think next on the list is to regularly start having board game nights to play Sequence and then also have kind of a wine and cheese night to just discuss things with friends. For me it would just be cheese as I don’t drink :muscle: :pray: :ocean:


Thoughts on building a social life