In late 2020 and early 2021, workers pursued higher wages, fulfilment, and greater work-life balance. During this Great Resignation, workers implied on having more freedom. Serenko (2022) discusses how being connected or being always 'on' was a great motivator to look for other opportunities and more fruitful jobs, as working hours seemed continuous due to the 24/7 online environment and it became harder to disconnect. In this way, disconnecting could be compared to being off work, having time for yourself and your dearest. It shows how efficient disconnecting from the online environment is. However, Court (2022) also stresses that disconnecting can come with withdrawal symptoms that are the same as coming off drugs.
Think about increased anxiety, negative mood swings, depression, and craving for access to
the internet again.
Not only individuals but even states disconnect their digital networks. According to Howard et al. (2011), both democratic and authoritarian regimes disable social media networks for citing national security concerns, protecting authority figures, and preserving cultural and religious morals. Democracies frequently disable social media in order to protect children, while authoritarian regimes attempt to eliminate what they refer to as "propaganda" on social media.
This shows the friction of our dependence on the internet, negative side-effects, and our intrinsic motivation for being off. This shows how the internet has become a drug for the mere and a skin for society to reflect its beliefs, thoughts and even provoke revolutions. However, for us internet addicts, this duality remains unexplored:
How do we deal with this relatively new efficiency in our lives?
A drug for the mere
Over-Capability of free time. Almost everything is automated, efficient. I can send online letters to the other side of the world in seconds, make payments with one single click on a button and access food without leaving the boundaries of my room. However, the discomfort in consequently having all this free time, is real. Are we conditioned to always want; should I be doing something? People physically stayed the same for centuries, my body is the same. Am I made to be looking for shelter, food, and safety? However, in these times it this discomfort drives me towards my phone. With this artificial object in my hand, I keep scrolling away to later wonder what I even consumed. I am left with a mushed brain and numbness to my environment. Feeling uninspired and anxious. The opposite happens when I disconnect. As in an experiment during a holiday, where I didn’t use internet for multiple days, except the necessary google maps on the island. It made me feel unpleasant at first, you are alone with your thoughts. It is silent. You are bored. There is no music playing, no podcast. But I got more excited than usual to do regular things. To go outside the house, explore, have fun with my travel companions. Suddenly I felt more grounded, had random creative ideas, insights. I even found me working to entertain myself. Most religions suggest a rest day, maybe a disconnected day per week helps us grow. It replaces a mindless scrolling day with a potential good day to fill with memories. A podcast less per day, keeps the doctor away.
Over-Optimizing romance. It can always be better. Be more fun, attractive, intellectual. We live in a world where we maximize, optimize and are continuously looking to be happier. We bring capitalism in relationships. In the past, romance was out of the equation. Monogamy was an economic system imposed on women that determined which children to feed and which received inheritance. Now you stop having sex with others, in order to be with the one, and you may leave the relationship again because you could be happier with someone else. It drives you in pursuit for more, which may lead to dissatisfaction with who you are and what you have. The efficiency of online dating takes away exploration, excitement and instead offers the possibility of potentially dating everyone in the world. An over optimalization that relieves us of our existential solitude, however, questions whether predictability takes away the very essence of life; exploration, and excitement. Give me a meet-cute1. Not a swipe-cute.
Over-Exposure, the same with a camera. You cannot differ the background from the subject. It becomes one. A similar thing is happening with the news. Constantly checking the news app, receiving updates, whether we want to see it or not, it is shown to us. We have lost silence. The world is doomed, ruined and negative. We are viewing the world in an inaccurate way. If the headlines that come out are your only point of attention, we forget about a dense fabric of cooperation underneath all that which makes everything possible. Trust, teaching others, negotiations are way bigger than the fireworks that catch our attention. Inform yourself about the fireworks, where it comes from. However, don’t set the sky on fire.
A skin for Society
Connectivity between humans via the internet and its representation is what I finally want to show. AI for constructing images, can be seen as a way of making collages with perfect edges (Bieg, n.d.). Online images are merged with your prompt as guideline into a new image – a collage. Because AI creates by being connected; thousands of images are used from all images available online to construct an artwork. This shows how being connected can generate art. By using images that individuals made over the world, it can also show worlds in which connectivity does not exist. Indigenous languages to generate an artwork will have little to no results,because there are no images made and/or labelled with these indigenous keywords. A difference is also experienced in language and representation. The output of these images is therefore a reflection of society, that is translated in an online environment. The images captured and labelled by us are formed by our perceptions and beliefs about the world. I wanted to investigate what our skin as a society looks like as a whole, interpreted by AI that stitches our images and labels together. Skin represented in different continents is by this collage with perfect edges merged into our continental skin. It shows how our literal continental skin is made up from biases, overrepresentation and ultimately our relationship with the internet.
Skin texture, generated in the image has a close resemblance to a geographical map. Furthermore, in the top left corner a darker undertone is shown that gradually becomes lighter in the low right corner. According to AI, and possibly the misrepresentation with lower ratio of images in darker skin tones, the continents are predominantly white. With even white higher laying skin patches that are positioned on top of a darker skin. It also shows worlds in which this does not exist, and biases generated through the internet community. Think about overrepresentation of white skin tones, beauty ideals and
underrepresentation of native cultures. The image stresses to critically reflect onto this connectivity between humans themselves and their relationship to the internet, and whether that’s a good thing.
It is no understatement that connection in our faculty is used more frequently in a positive sense rather than a negative one. Something that is efficient to have. To put all the banality together, don’t we all want communities to be inclusive, have synergies, build connections, and be resilient? For internet connectivity I want to stress the opposite. What do you want to get out of it? The same as what you get out of life? Inspiration, goodness? Getting something out of something is efficient. Maybe, as in life, there isn’t anything to get out of the internet; so, we remain inefficient, and what we are looking for online is nothing.