We're Chained to Our Phones and It's Scarier Than We Think
do you know what 11 hours of screen time looks like? it looks like rolling over in bed as soon as you wake up to check your notifications. not like you can read or comprehend anything--that's not the point of the reflex. it looks like scrolling mindlessly while you eat, while you use the bathroom, while you wait in line at the grocery store so no one can look at you too hard. it looks
like playing background noise while you shower, or cook, or exercise. like when you're trying to commit to hobbies but the hobbies are too...quiet. but what does the absence of that screen time look like? it looks like trying to find ways to stay busy; working even if you don't want to, reading even though your brain won't latch. it feels like your brain is still on that treadmill you primed it for,
running as fast and as hard as it can but there's nothing beneath its feet; it's just running on air. it looks like staring at the wall, wanting to do something but ultimately realizing that you have no energy to do what you want anyways. it looks like wondering; what if my friend sends me a funny tweet or a hilarious tik-tok and i can't view it? what if they think i'm ignoring them? what if something's happening on twitter--something funny... something bad? what if something bad is happening?
what if all the usual bad things are happening, the ones that keep me up at night, but there's something worse on the horizon? what if people need me? what if i disappointed someone? what if someone notices my absence? what if no one notices my absence? what does my absence say about me what does my absence say about other people? what if there's a meteor plummeting towards earth and everyone's trying to warn me to take cover--to find a way out, to do something new, something different, something salvageable, something that will outlast me before life as we know it ceases to exist? what if i'm left alone with my thoughts? what if i'm left alone? as if that'll help. what if you say something wrong? don't you have to keep tabs on everything to make sure you're well liked? don't you have to peruse your tag on twitter? tik-tok? have you tried tumblr? your comment section is amassing hundreds of comments, you must have said something wrong. you must have hurt someone, what if you hurt someone? don't you care about hurting someone? what if someone's viewing your instagram story and thinks that something you posted on there was weird? shouldn't you rewatch every single post, comb through every detail to make sure nothing is weird? what if no one liked your instagram story? what if no one likes you? pick up your phone! put it down. you're fine, you spend too much time on it. you waste too much time. shouldn't
you be working, shouldn't you be reading, walking, exercising, partaking in hobbies, calling your mom, texting your friends back, messaging back strangers, reading your comments, checking your tumblr, someone says they hate you and your videos on tumblr. instagram is crashing people are having to reconcile with the two hours of downtime. reminisce with them on twitter. something is happening on twitter. instagram's back. tumblr. twitter pick up your phone! pick up your phone! pick up your phone! shanspeare, pick up your phone! it's been 11 hours...you were on your phone for 11 hours. aren't you ashamed of that? DOCTOR: um okay... i just asked you how your day was going, i was expecting some small talk but this is fine um...i'll tell you what, since you can't make it into the appointment today, i want you to
watch something instead. it's by one of my trusted colleagues. i show it to everyone who exhibits the symptoms you mentioned and it usually helps. are you ready for the link M.Shanspeare? MS: yes doctor oh and do try to watch it on your laptop. try putting some distance between you and your phone according to abrar al-heeti, author of "chronically online: what the phrase means and some examples," a chronically online person can be defined as "someone who spends so much time online it skews their sense of reality." the exact etymology of the phrase is unknown--not to researchers but to me--but wikipedia notes that chronically online has been around at least since 2014. you can imagine. i mean, the internet in 2014 was like a mcdonald's ice cream machine on any given day;
that sh*t was broken. as the cores and waves of our generation began sprouting up like pesky little weeds, chronically online entered the household lexicon sometime in the latter half of the 2010s. chronically online people are said to "believe that online posts are very important." they see twitter discourse as a defining facet of existence, they back read their tumblr feed like the morning newspaper... don't get me started on reddit. please don't get me started on reddit. though the term can be used for individual people it can also reference events or ideas. in fact
according to wikipedia, being chronically online alludes to "both reformation of the delivery of ideas as well as the ideas themselves." so not only do we primarily communicate in internet slang, memes, gifs, and copy pasta, but the things in which we talk about have drastically changed. most politicians probably spent their social hours talking about foraging for berries or the latest cave drawings... because they were all born in the mesozoic era, apparently. but generation z and younger millennials talk about...god i just got vivid flashbacks to homestuck for some reason not only that but we discuss and perform these sorts of ideas outside of the internet. usually with our friends but rarely out in public...around strangers. in that way being chronically online
is considered a way of doing things rather than a reference to where those things are done. hi, i'm editing. i do think it's interesting and kind of hypocritical--oh you can see my cat anyways i think it's interesting and hypocritical, the phrase extremely online, because although it's said to be known by the general public, i don't necessarily think it is. i think it's one of those things where the pot is calling the kettle black, you know? like only the extremely online can call other people extremely online, because they're probably the only ones who are able to tell what is extremely online. summarily, the daily dot considers chronically online people to be
individuals who are "interested in topics no normal, healthy person could possibly care about." that reminds me. there is a bit of discourse surrounding potential ableism in the phrases chronically online and terminally online. we usually use the term chronic to refer to chronic
illnesses and some people believe that taking that word and using it negatively to criticize people adds stigma to the phrase. a subscriber named johnny states: "as someone with a chronic condition myself and who would consider myself chronically online, i do think it's kind of offensive slash rude to use it derogatorily in the way that the use of chronic to describe a state of being implies a condition and using a condition as an insult is obviously ableist. but i think using it as a neutral description for one's own behavior is acceptable since it's an actual thing people struggle with that affects their perception, mental health, and whatever else." there are also some subscribers who don't agree with this sentiment. anonymous states: "i do not think it
is ableist to point out how this can affect someone's relationships off of the internet and their own sense of self by using the phrase chronically online. and to be honest i think the phrase chronically online gives a lot of people the language to describe" long-standing internet use. though it is one of those things on the fence, for the sake of respecting those who do find this term offensive when used negatively, i'll be using the phrase extremely online henceforth. in my very serious, very shakespearean level of research on tiktok.com, i found the use of extremely online used often to refer to people who have a moral superiority complex or people who show outrage for inconsequential things. it can be used to refer to people who regurgitate hot takes they've seen online, primarily on tik tok and twitter, but the hot take has become so corroded that it's unrecognizable from the original argument. it's like people are playing a game of telephone
through social media; they heard from someone, who heard from someone, who heard from someone, who saw it in a tik tok once that eating apples is co-opting aave. the term extremely online is also misused a lot across tik-tok and is becoming synonymous with people who share valid concerns about discrimination like misgendering or racial microaggressions. with all of that in mind, i began to see why so many of the sources i found for this video cite "woke culture" and "cancel culture" as staples of the extremely online community side note: but i would rather my face get eaten off by moth man himself before i ever use these two phrases unironically. they originated in the black queer community but
have since been co-opted by conservatives who use the word so poorly that all meaning has been leeched from their very existence. like what the f**k is a woke pizza hut? like shut up. god! my point of contention is not with woke culture and cancel culture, at least not in the modern sense of the words. i would argue that the idea of extreme onlineness has the potential to manifest in three distinct categories: the political, the personal, and the profitable politics is a broad category in the united states. it's primarily used in reference to the government (sometimes used synonymously with human rights) but when it comes to online-ism, the meeting loses its objective nature. when i think of politics, onlineness, and extremism, i usually think of the pipelines that shuffle predominantly younger, predominantly white, predominantly cis men towards escalating forms of alt-rightness. some subscriber submissions view political doom
scrolling as a form of extreme onlineness; other people think of performative activism and guilt trip activism, where people post infographics and say you're going to hell if you don't post them on your story, too. but i think the gist of my entire argument for the political section of this video can be boiled down to a few words: y'all don't know how to talk to people. but i'mma let it slide but--but, i'm--i'mma--f**k no, i'm not gonna let it slide! i'm on your ass today. there are three major facets of political discourse that i've noticed among the extremely online: a clear deprivation of complexity in others, an aim for moral superiority in oneself, and suppression of construction when it comes to criticism. aka y'all don't know how to talk to people. according to julie zhao, author
of "where anonymity breeds contempt," the power of invisibility often lends people the privacy to misbehave. [whistle] this theory stretches back all the way to ancient greece, where plato theorized that "even a habitually just man who possessed invisibility would become a thief, knowing that he couldn't be caught." therefore morality, as plato argues, "comes from full disclosure; without accountability for our actions, we would all behave unjustly." the same idea works on the internet; people have the ability to forgo profile pictures, real names, or any identifying features that can be traced back to them. this allows them to say and do whatever they want with little to no repercussions an anonymous user's friends don't lose respect for them when they purposefully misgender someone or spew transphobic rhetoric because no one knows they're saying it. or they have friends that are just as if not more bigoted than they are, who's to say? but let's dial it back to something a bit more mild--something that's more annoying than it is bigoted. there's a lot of begging the question
online. instead of presenting arguments formed by critical thought and nuance, we often assume the intentions behind someone's words or actions, which just leads to purposeful misrepresentation. i remember i got a comment on my last video accusing me of saying something i just never said. they got mad at a quote i pulled from a subscriber, recognized two words out of that quote, and formulated an entirely different argument than what that quote implied, using words and accusations that aren't even featured at all throughout the entire video. but f**k that, none of that matters, i'm used to it. the thing that got me is the fact that they ended it by saying: "god, video essayists know nothing about tumblr and it leads to cringey videos like this."
you'd look this person in their eyes and tell them they know nothing about tumblr? you'd bet your life on that? i was there when the superwholockian-- sorry. i was there when the superwholockians burned down the metaphorical locker of shame, climbed out of the fire with no scratches, put on their fez, scarf, and black contacts before uttering the words still imprinted in the back of my mind today you shouldn't have done that. on the internet, no longer is the person you're arguing with online just saying they like pancakes. no that admission of their love of one thing proves that they hate everything that isn't that. it doesn't matter that they didn't say
that. they're war criminals. they just personally targeted you with the statement 'i like pancakes' and you must do something about it. so you fire off three twitter threads about how this person is the scum of the earth and anyone who interacts with them is going to twitter hell somewhere along the line the original argument gets lost, other people are joining in, the person is run off the platform--or worse. and don't assume what i'm referencing here, there's no reference. because i don't necessarily have to point to one event or one downfall. you can take your pick "dogpiling on social media: without long-term goals it's just empty performance" is an article written by whiteclaw explaining--[lowered voice] whiteclaw previously submitted why furries care about politics in 2018.
did i choose a source written by an actual furry--whiteclaw... white claw mentions how dog piling usually features an indistinguishable mass of people. a mass of which refuses to acknowledge that they're dog piling in the first place. "according to them they are critiquing, complaining, offering their opinion, standing up for themselves, and or others, responding, calling out, and any other number of words and terms that can be used to describe their actions. but never are they dog piling." this mass jumping occurs primarily on social media after someone does something bad-- 'bad' being a vague and oftentimes undefinable category of actions "within the spectrum of events there are making an honest mistake or slip up, wording something poorly, having a bad take, promoting an idea or opinion that is polarizing, promoting an idea or opinion that is actively harmful, being a bigot, or committing acts that are dangerously close to or are in fact illegal." for the sake of this video and my sanity i'll emphasize here that i am not critiquing accountability. when someone does something in reference to the last few events
here i think it's valid to question where your loyalties lie. you don't have to support, platform, or finance anyone whose moral code differs from your own if that's where you draw the line. for the sake of this video i am strictly talking about things that do not actively cause others harm things that are not racist, sexist, transphobic, ableist, and the like. when we dogpile someone
who says something relatively harmless or unintentionally offensive, do we dogpile them because we're upset at what they've said and think dogpiling will erase what they've said or do we dogpile them because it's fun and it's the internet and everyone's doing it? it's the latter, what did you expect? white claw summarizes this by stating "the dog pile wants only one thing: to revel in the enjoyment of taking someone down." people who are called extremely online in terms of their political activism tends to be called as such because of these murky intentions. they want perfection, and they don't necessarily even want perfection from you. they just want you to know that they're the perfect one because they're the first one to call you out. it's quite literally a running joke on social media that extremely online people--at least this specific manifestation of them--tend to be obsessed with being better than everyone else. they have better morals, they have better opinions, their fave is not problematic like yours. and they use this perfectionism to their advantage. when they start condemning random people on the internet for harmless or inconsequential things, it helps to know that it's coming from someone so perfect, right? i'm like dyeing my hair now i'm sorry. but i want people to understand
exactly what i mean when i say inconsequential things. like for instance, i was on tik tok and i saw someone say that an 18 year old and a 19 year old shouldn't date because that is morally ambiguous and there are certain power dynamics at play that make it wrong for a 19 year old to date someone one year younger than them. it's an extremely online thing to do to manufacture rage and condemnation out of something teachable, revel in the chaos and dehumanization that ensues, and then feign innocence when it's done because no one can single you out for participating. putting that aside, here's [laughs] here's some required reading on the subject by some of my fellow creators. the political manifestation of the extremely online can best be summarized by william hawes, author of "the rise of the terminally online: digital subjectivity and simulation of the social." that's a big word for elmo. in that article, haws argues that we depend upon hot takes instead of
systematic changes and in doing so we create echo chambers which are further held up by algorithms that push the loudest, most clickable voices. "in this environment, political commentary in the west resembles sports news, or movie reviews, or fashion advertising; a running conversation on trendy stupefying, salacious current events where no serious response to the power structure or the money system is offered." i think extremely online people in the political sphere tend to be so negatively engaged simply because that's how these apps sustain traffic (and because they have an anger quota) while we are pleased by the positive aspects of social media like community and cat photos, hawes argues that we also get a "perverse enjoyment from diving into the swamp of rancor and abuse that posting online inevitably stirs up." doom scrolling, moral superiority, and senseless twitter draggings keep us logged in for longer, has us engaged for longer and begins to atrophy our senses, as hawes puts it. and that, dear reader, is when things get
a little personal. what does 11 hours of screen time look like? according to dan kaufer, md, "the average american spent three hours and 30 minutes a day using mobile internet in 2019," which is 20 minutes more than the average 2018 figure. maya macguineas adds on to this stating that "the average person taps, types, swipes, and clicks on their smartphone 2,617 times a day. 93% of people sleep with their devices within arm's reach. 75% use them in the bathroom." the extreme
half of extremely online is no hyperbole. E. Bun Lee, in their study "too much information heavy smartphone and facebook utilization by african-american young adults," references a study by billeaux et al, who state that "problematic use of mobile phones has been viewed as a disorder and conceptualized as addictive behavior marked by symptoms of withdrawal, craving, and loss of control," within clinical psychology. this level of extreme phone use has the potential to "adversely affect cognition" which is the "process of acquiring and applying knowledge through thought, experience, and senses." does anyone remember those 'this is your brain on hugs' videos? an actor takes an egg--your brain for all intents and purposes--and holds it next to a hot skillet, i.e [reggae music] he cracks it and lo and behold that is your brain on hugs. your brain on extreme phone use looks a little more like this. your brain becomes more passive as large quantities of information are presented to it at
the touch of a finger. you're less likely to retain that information too since your brain didn't really process it in the first place. your social and emotional skills may take a hit as you spend less time establishing interpersonal connections and strong relationships outside of your screen. you may become more impatient with people in real life or just in general because you're so used to the fast natured process of your phone. you're riddled with depression, anxiety, stress, eye strain and sleep disturbances. your head may hurt more than usual. phantom vibrations plague you, a phenomenon noted by the feeling of vibrations or sound coming from your phone when nothing's really there. human beings are primed for social structures made up of about 150 individuals
according to trevor haynes. smartphones on the other hand present about 2 billion potential connections-- all of which fit into a small device which in turn fits in your pocket. alice cappelle did a terrific video about anti-tech titled "the anti-tech movement is back." and in it, she states "the constant flow of stimulation puts us in a state of paralysis. we're numbly being drawn back
and forth by the waves of information, of so-called progress, without reflecting on them." it's easy to think of all of this as the phone user's fault; just put the phone down, go touch grass, go socialize. but there are many factors that may prevent someone from doing so. perhaps they're chronically ill or disabled and have to-- or can only-- remain in their house. perhaps the internet is someone's only way of socializing. but in addition to this, someone being chained to their phone is by design. that is the point of these big tech companies and the point of their apps. in "dopamine smartphones, and you: a battle for your time," trevor haynes argues that social media apps like facebook snapchat and instagram "leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and co***ne to keep us using their products as much as possible." now it's important to note that being
extremely online is not the same as being addicted to a substance. i think dr. cyrus mccandless, who specializes in neuroethology, makes a very valid point when it comes to the language we use for dopamine, addiction, and technology. you can find the full address in "misunderstanding dopamine: why the language of addiction matters," which is a tedx talk he presented in 2018. i'm not laughing at that, i'm laughing because my cats are fighting. what are you guys doing?! but the gist of mccandless's point is
that we misconstrue the relationship dopamine has with our likes and desires. we aren't necessarily addicted to something because we like it, we're addicted because of how our brain is taught to prioritize it through various reward systems. the pull we feel towards our iphone or social media apps is nothing compared to the surprise-success signal released when someone uses a substance the latter is much bigger and much more consuming than the former, and quite literally rearranges our priorities within our brains until that substance is all we're able to seek. so while haynes may be correct in that social media apps use the same neural circuitry as substances, they're used in a much different way on quite possibly a much smaller scale. that's where dopamine comes in. dopamine is a neurotransmitter that signals pleasure for your brain. when we do something pleasurable, like eating certain foods or being with the people we love, dopamine is released from the brain and makes us feel good. this feel-good chemical reinforces whatever sequence that led
us to the feeling in the first place. so we become attached to our phones because of that "virtually unlimited supply of social stimuli, both positive and negative," haynes argues. this sequence can also be exemplified by the variable reward schedule which was created by bf skinner in the 1930s "in his experiments he found that mice respond most frequently to reward associated stimuli when the reward was administered after a varying number of responses, precluding the animal's ability to predict when they would be rewarded." and if you know anything about the development of social media apps and how they coax us into spending hours on their platform, you'll know that the variable reward schedule is how many of them profit off of our attachment. in a perfect world or maybe just in a perfect economic textbook, capitalism would feature a well-functioning market "prices are transparent and people have a basic level of trust that exchanges of goods, services and money will benefit all parties." but this isn't a perfect world. much of capitalism's promises fail to reach reality. and big tech is actively undermining whatever else is left
of its carcass. "their aim," mcguineas notes, "is not merely to gain and retain customers, but instead to create a dependency on their products." apps do this by engineering their products to be habit-forming. "the buzzes, badges, and streaks of social media, the personalized deals of commerce
sites, the algorithmic precision for youtube recommendations, all have been finely tuned to keep us coming back for more." this is why the personal is so profitable it's why we spend those three or more hours glued to our screen while we tap, swipe, and click 2,617 times a day. because that is the purpose of these apps--at least to the developer. Nir Eyal, author of 'hooked: how to build habit-forming products' further explains the variable-award theory and its relationship to apps. the target audience of this explanation is developers who wish to integrate the theory into their systems. Eyal states that the variable awards presented by
a habit-forming product "suppresses the areas of the brain associated with judgment and reason while activating the parts associated with wanting and desire." so that brief lag we get when we refresh twitter turns out not to be a brief lag at all but "an intentional delay written into the code designed to elicit the response Eyal describes." instagram also apparently holds back the number of notifications they show you when you open the app so that the number accumulates and grows larger. and so when you first post a photo and it shows you that you have low likes, that negative response makes the future when you see a larger number of likes all of a sudden that much sweeter. even on youtube, with its all-knowing algorithm that pisses me off to no end, this idea of suppressed judgment and active desire brings in billions of views-- and in turn profit. according to mcguineas, the autoplay feature "deprives viewers of a natural moment at which
to disengage...as of 2017 users were watching a collective 1 billion hours of youtube videos a day, more than 70 percent of which had been served to us in the form of algorithmic recommendations." to even start getting paid on youtube i think you have to draw in like 4,000 hours of watch time from your viewers. it's by design. and that says nothing of the other profitable yet pilfering attitudes of these other companies. they collect our data, our cookies, our locations, our
likes, our dislikes, our buying habits; things that seem inconsequential, maybe even a little valid in the trade-off, and they do god knows what with them. the wall street journal reported that iphone apps used for tracking heart rate and menstrual cycles allegedly sell that data to the likes of facebook who in turn assures us that they're not using it. Edward Cullen: Lie better. even apps that seem harmless enough like pokemon go "rely on a system of rewards and punishments to herd players to mcdonald's, starbucks, and other stores that pays its developers for foot traffic." not to mention how prices on the internet are allegedly altered by our spending habits. mcguineas states "by tracking our purchasing patterns--what we will shell out for an airline upgrade, how sensitive we are to surge pricing--companies can make offers based on what each individual is willing to pay rather than what the market will bear." so if your past browsing history implies affluence, the prices you're shown on google search for instance may be higher than your less affluent counterparts.
this is furthered by research conducted by benjamin reid schiller, who explains that access to browsing history of any specific buyer can increase company profit by 14.6 percent. this sh*t is horrifying. i would say it's orwellian, but i fear conservatives will think i'm one of them. as Theodore F. Claypole explains, "like casinos built without sunlight or clocks so as to encourage your further play, the social media sites and data mining industry study online behavior and build manipulation machines designed to entice you to remain engaged and to divulge information." in other words, our attention economy is compromised. and who knows how to properly secure it for good?
Lemme...Lemme redo that. and using a condition as an insult is obviously...obviously AHT! bigoted. [singing S&M by Rihanna] [singing the intro to Umbrella by Rihanna ft Jay Z] beard coming all the way off. i don't even think i'm talking anymore.
these are real tears baby on command! I'm a god. can be boiled down to a few words...please do not stop in front of my house... they just peed on my mailbox