It is a beautiful Easter Sunday and I am sitting on my balcony (in the shade because I am paler than the friendly ghost) looking at all the people busy going somewhere. I on the other hand have just fought with a spilled cup of tea (literal not gossipy) and Microsoft Office online chat help because I have ideas bubbling in my head that I can’t wait to get out.
I don’t know why I can’t be content just to think these thoughts and then let them disappear into the ether , and somehow a private journal does not tick the box either. So instead poor readers (I am 99% convinced it is still just my Mum and Dad reading these, 755 posts in), you get to hear my musings.
The thought that has been rattling around my brain for a while is on how things on the online realm are less tangible than those in real life. It is more than just that you can’t touch it, there is something altogether less nourishing about what happens on social media and the like (although the negative parts seem to have a doubly worse effect on everyone). I was listening to the Feel Better, Live More podcast by Dr Rangan Chatterjee the other day on the topic of life admin. I have moved house in the last couple of months, an activity whose resulting life admin felt like a tsunami ready to crash. I was looking for some ideas around why this felt so overwhelming, was this a 2019 kind of thing or has it always been this bad, and episode 53 of the Feel Better, Live More podcast seemed to fit the bill.
I am not going to go into any details (it is worth a listen if you are interested – it is practical and not woowoo) but the one concept that caught in my brain was that a physical pen and paper to do list has more mental impact (as in it reduces the feelings of stress and makes you more likely to do it) than one on the computer. I have tried all the online organisation tools out there (Trello or the notes app being my go tos) but I always ended up coming back to paper – and this podcast validated why. But where it got me thinking was if this could be extrapolated to the rest of the online world, and what the implications were for our increasing reliance on the internet. If I spend hours on Instagram a day looking at the wisteria hysteria, new puppies and glorious food studies are now showing this has an overall negative impact on my mental and emotional well being, vs walking outside to see a tree, a puppy and brunch which is good for me overall (except maybe the brunch thing, we all know the impact of avocado toast on the housing market).
To add to this what we see on the overly posed Instagram and for the most part on blogs these days is close to a perfect world. We as viewers yearn to be that girl in the hat effortlessly walking out of the pink front door holding a basket of flowers. We are not dumb, we know that this is an entirely staged photo where the hat is only worn because it stands out in photos, the flowers were chosen for the look and not the smell, that it is a strangers front door that the Influencer has found from the feed of another Grammer and then spent half a day stalking out. We know this. And yet, we somehow feel that if only we were better or had more money or better clothes that we could one day be that effortless girl stepping outside that pink front door.
I am not going to become an anti-internet person in the slightest. But it has made me thing about where we invest time and energy, and how maybe even things like newspapers moving from physical circulation to online could be contributing to us thinking less deeply, and more like a pebble skipping across a lake of information. I think the only conclusion (based on no science whatsoever) is that the internet might always have half the impact of the corresponding in life action. Email will have half the impact of calls or meetings. This blog post will have half the impact of me drunkenly telling you this in a bar. Words of encouragement will be half as impactful as someone saying it to your face. That this online world that has fundamentally changed us as a species, how we interact, the political landscape, the environment and everything in between – actually isn’t that great after all. We come back time and time again for a quick dopamine hit, but actually it is equivalent of eating candy for dinner. Fun, but no real nourishment.
That is a strange thing to think as a blogger. That the words I have spent so many hours of my life writing are not actually impacting the world at all. But then again, I don’t think I was ever trying for impact with this blog. It has and always will be an intellectual and emotional catharsis, a way to stop my thoughts racing, because at least they are written down somewhere. Even if that is somewhere with questionable impact.