I'm living two lives. One, what's in front of me, my hands, clothes, room, the window, door, trees, air, world. The other is my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, even this blog. Who's really living? Occasionally, you hear wild stories of people living "double lives". In one, they typically have a spouse and family while in the other they're a single drifter. And sometimes the two never overlap. Am I cheating on myself?
I don't suppose I'm crazy, there's an abundance of evidence supporting these feelings. Aside from the screens at work, on the train, in our homes, and on our faces, pop-culture feels like it's at an awkward inflection point. What exactly are we doing to ourselves? Take for example this scene from Pixar's masterpiece, Wall-E.
It's not that I'm scared, I like to think of myself as open to change, an "early adopter". But my gut-feeling is that we (as a society) haven't quite reached a collective consensus on how we feel about technology in our lives. It's like a relationship that smothers itself with infatuation before any real feelings can develop. One moment I love my phone. The next, it drives me crazy, like a drug, it's a double-edged sword. I believe we'll eventually get it right, but until then, there's going to be a phase of figuring out what works.
Check out this "wake-up-call" video that went viral on Facebook several months back. Ironically, I had to search for five minutes to find it again (amazing how super-popular content become irrelevant so quickly).
Perhaps even more ironically is that you need a screen to watch it. Alas, it does make you think. Afterwards I was afraid of all the "real experiences" I'm missing. The psychological phenomena called "FOMO" or fear of missing out. What's worse is that in living my double life, FOMO effects me from both sides. In my non-digital life, I fear the information I'm missing in the digital world. When I'm focused on a screen, I fear missing the moment to meet the girl on the train or that I'll fail to appreciate the single rose protruding from the sidewalk against all odds, those "little things".
All this angst isn't good and to top it off I feel like there's massive dissonance between who I am in "real life" and the flawless pseudo-version of myself I project online. It's not that I want to mislead anyone, but when you're the editor of your own life, where do you draw the line?
I love the internet. Of course, I love "real life" too. Maybe one day, I'll figure out a graceful way to introduce these two people. Then I won't feel like I'm lying to myself, living a double life of appreciating the present moment while entertaining my 30-second attention span with more photos of sepia-toned "friends".