Some time ago, I was reading a game review. It was about a game I’ve played several times. It was called “addicting”. Several people were complaining that they are hooked and that they feel there isn’t anything they can do about this. The same people were praising it.
We live in a strange world if we are praising a time waster, something that brings a net utility to our life of exactly zero simply because it is addicting. It means that our lives suck so much and we are in so much emotional pain (boredom enters this category) that anything can make us forget about living is a good thing.
Several years ago, opium was doing this job. Now opium is banned but digital forms of stimulation that are rewiring our brain are legal. It is illegal to drink if you are under 18 but it is legal to spend 12 hours a day blasting aliens made out of polygons in an effort to forget about parents, school and that cute girl that doesn’t acknowledge your existence.
I’ve came across this website too.
It is a website that details how much time is wasted on YouTube. It is sad. No, sorry, it is actually depressing to know that some stupid video captured a collective 1080 years of humanity’s productive time. I am not even talking about a music video. That’s 1080 years.
I’m sorry but without YouTube and without video games, we would do space travel now. If people would invest the same time and energy in productive endeavors as opposed to trivial entertainment, we would have probably discovered the secret to cold fusion and built a base on Mars. Global warming would have been solved.
But no. We live life in an effort to escape life. It is ludicrous.
Ten years ago, when I would find a computer game or a video or a movie show that was addicted, I was rejoiced. I was happy to escape life. There was something that for a long time can protect me from boredom. But now, just knowing that a TV show can cause addiction because it is that good, I steer away from it. I know I have better things to do with my time.
Is this a social commentary or the frustrations of a 27 years old that is out of sync with the current times? It is neither. Whatever I say here, it is not going to change the world. I’m just saying that I wish I’d live in a world without Facebook, without YouTube, without video games as that world would be far more satisfying overall. I know there is joy to be had in many endeavors that have nothing to do with something found on the screen.
So what do I suggest that you do?
Thoreau built himself a cabin in the forest and learned about self-reliance. He was living in a time very different from ours and his solution was extreme. While I’d love to do what he did, it’s not practical.
So here’s what I suggest instead.
# Understand that there is a cost for everything you do. That ten minutes watching that big breasted girl on YouTube is adding zero value to your life. If anything, it’s making you horny and unable to focus on what follows next. That’s ten minutes you can spend doing push-ups or cleaning your house or actually being outside, meeting girls with big breasts and having the real experience, not one in 1080p.
# Any action is deemed productive but some are more productive than others. The key is investing your time where you gain the most bang for your buck. Playing football is more interesting than watching football and meeting people in person is superior to chatting with them via IM. Whatever you are doing right now, there is a chance that there’s an superior option that gives you more for less. If it is within reach, do it.
# Learn to understand YouTube, Facebook, Instagram. You don’t understand one thing. You think these big corporations are your friend and that they’re making your life better.
These big corporations are doing this for money. Everything they do is designed for you to spend more time on their platforms. They don’t care about your well-being. Every tweak Facebook makes is designed to trick you, on a psychological level to spend more time there. They employ tens of millions of dollars on the best psychologists and behavioral specialists in this world just to take you away from something else and spend more time on theirs – as the more time you spend, the most they earn.
YouTube is not a public service. You think just because it is for free, it is good. No. Google would gladly employ any tool that’s legal to make you watch more videos. You’re never going to see any warning from YouTube that you’re spending too much time watching cat videos and that you’re supposed to take a break now. No. They’re corporations and a corporation is designed to maximize value for the shareholder.
I’m not saying that this is a bad thing and if I’d work at Google, I’d gladly use the best of my intellect to make you watch more YouTube videos. The same is true with video games. A video game designer doesn’t care about you being fit, happy, fulfilled, about having a perfect ten as a girlfriend, a job that is making a difference and a strong emotional intelligence.
No. They’re creating video games and the more you play it, the better he did is job. This is not morally wrong. The YouTube video is not morally wrong. Condemning this as immoral is like condemning a girl with big breasts for you paying attention to them and fantasizing about being with her as opposed to doing something else – or condemning sugar that is addictive just because you can’t stop eating ice-cream.
However, my friend, you do have the power to decide. Just because many things in this world start automatic compliance mechanisms this doesn’t mean you need to execute them. You are not a pinball. You are not a dog or a cat, just going through instinctual processes. You are a human being and you have a damn neo-cortex that while is less powerful than the mammalian brain, it is strong enough to stay in control over your behavior.
A dog doesn’t have this. If you place a big steak in front of a dog, he will salivate and want to eat it. Probably, he will also wiggle his tail. A pavlovian response is automatic as the dog’s brain has not evolved enough in order to gain self-awareness over his environment and make the difference between automatic processes and choices. A dog responses to stimuli. You response to both stimuli and reason.
The problem is that marketers are becoming better and better at gaining compliance and this means that you need to exercise control more and more. It is not happening by default. Just like Newton’s third law, an object in motion tends to remain in motion until an equal and opposite force applies to it. If you don’t apply the force of strong self-awareness in which you realize that everyone wants your time for their profit but and that you are the only one who can direct your time towards what’s good for you – you become free.
You stop taking decisions based as pavlovian responses, as most humans do at this point in history and you start taking decisions based on values, based on cost / benefit, based on relative utility, based on long term consequences. Develop that observing ego. Otherwise, based on where technology is evolving, you’re screwed.