Thursday, April 5, 2012


As I come to the tail end of my twitters and FB sabbatical, I'm finding that some things have changed with respect to my social media diet (and my thoughts on same), but I recognize that my displaced habit simply manifested in new ways.

Namely, I just channeled a lot of energy into Instagram (which was pretty much my only other social media outlet, besides email and blogging). But, life also happened and without constantly looking into my iPhone screen (or laptop or desktop screen), I found I read more, did more, and was present more.

But...the thing is, social media is just part of our landscape today. And I like it. I've made some really good friends via social media and I really wouldn't want to trade that for anything.

Understatement of the year - Twitter is a great source for news. But, it's a constant streaming of "eye-bites" that unless you do a little (or a lot) of digging on your own, can often lead to a really distorted picture of what that piece of "news" is really all about.

One way I've counteracted the loss of Twitter "news" during my day was to subscribe to two newspapers that I now read over breakfast or before going to bed. One is my local paper (the San Antonio Express News) and the other is the New York Times. I'm aware (at least via my folks) of a bias against the Times for being a liberal rag, but I find it excellent. A very wide array of news, entertainment, opinion, that reaches globally. I've enjoyed the heck out of my subscription to date.

I bring up these two reading items to say that one downside I've discovered from my Twitter usage was just that I'd stopped reading as much as I used to, and I hate that. I think there's a lot to be said about the many stories of late that have come out illustrating how much our attention span is impacted by using things like iPads, and iPhones, and other electronic devices to read everything from books, to work documents, to our newspapers. For me, anyway, I do find myself in the middle of a kindle book, or news story, and if I want to look something up, it's just a swipe of the finger to connect me to the internet, which can lead to indiscriminate surfing or gaming, and before I know it, an hour's passed and I haven't returned to the book, or the article, or the whatever.

It's an issue. And apparently, it's changing the way my brain works (and your brain, too!). I'm reading The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains right now, and it's some interesting stuff.

Then, last night, I read this great piece from the Times that realllllly resonated with me. If you've ever found yourself inexplicably drawn for the kajillionth time to a game of Angry Birds or Words with Friends or, my personal favorite, Land Grabbers (don't judge me), it'll probably resonate with you, too. It's called Just One More Game...Angry Birds, Farmville, and Other Hyperaddictive 'Stupid Games'. And, it even has a poker component that I find amusing.

The author, Sam Anderson, makes some great points. One, simply being his description of the iPhone itself: they're "sophisticated game console(s)" that otherwise non-game playing consumers can now carry around and interact with at all hours of the day and night.

Think about people you know on Facebook who you constantly "see" playing Farmville or the Sims. This stuff is addictive, and Anderson tries to find out why.

He writes:
Stupid games, on the other hand, are rarely occasions in themselves. They are designed to push their way through the cracks of other occasions. We play them incidentally, ambivalently, compulsively, almost accidentally. They’re less an activity in our day than a blank space in our day; less a pursuit than a distraction from other pursuits. You glance down to check your calendar and suddenly it’s 40 minutes later and there’s only one level left before you jump to the next stage, so you might as well just launch another bird.
Hmmm. I know the feeling.

The poker component comes in at the tail end of the article, when Anderson spoke to Frank Lantz, the creator of a game (Drop7) that had overtaken Anderson's life. Lantz claimed that poker was the game to which he had the deepest relationship. To him, poker was: a tightrope walk between this transcendently beautiful and cerebral thing that gave you all kinds of opportunities to improve yourself — through study and self-­discipline, making your mind stronger like a muscle — and at the same time it was pure self-destruction. There’s no word for that in English, for a thing that does both of those at the same time. But it’s wonderful.
I can definitely relate to that, too.

Anderson ultimately concludes that 'stupid games' "force us to make a series of interesting choices about what matters, moment to moment, in our lives."

With an iPhone or other mobile device constantly at the ready, it seems to me (from experience) that it's easier than ever to leave 'real life' decisions to later in favor of one more drawing, or one more level, or one more...something in whatever game I find myself then immersed...that, ultimately, really just doesn't matter.

And at what cost? Seems to me that as these devices become more and more prevalent in our society, the people who are better able to compartmentalize and detach will be the purveyors (of what?) to those that can't.

At any rate, just some food for thought. One thing that's been a blast in helping me to 'detach' is my daily trail chronicle, which I've been keeping a record of over on Instagram.

This is from today (I'm never gonna be able to get a job as a camera person in Hollywood, that's fer dang sure. Back story, over the past couple of days, I've come across a nest with chicken-size eggs. Before Tuesday, the nest has always been unattended, and what started out as four eggs, turned into seven. Maybe she's now sitting on babies?):



  1. I also like social media--a lot and have a friend who gives me quite a hard time over the amount of time I spend on Twitter, Facebook, and the internet in general. I've forced myself to get back to reading books, which I've been pretty successful at, but it did hit me the other day that my focus is not as good as it used to be...and it must might be from all the online time...mmmmm...

  2. Kat, I can relate! And it seems perception is reality, so even when you do get to a point of more balance (whatever that is!) it won't matter because the perception (in your friend's mind, or of family, other friends, whatever) is already's just something we can only try to be aware of, I guess! See you on twitter soon! ;)

  3. People are not machines. In a sense the attempt to be productive at all moments is a sickness. The only real answer is trying to be present in the moment and seeking balance in all things.

  4. Laoch, very good point (as per usual!). I saw this story on HardBoiled Poker's blog today and thought of you. (I also smiled. A lot.)


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