I’d like to expand on a recent tweet of mine which was so compact that it omits vast amounts of detail. The tweet was this:
“The real psy-op is a globalised form of ADD induced by increasing usage of social media based dopamine stimulation devices, resulting in a global temporal attention deficit where we have no understanding of the past or deep-time, and live entirely in the nano-present.”
There’s a lot going on here, but it outlines another one of the major problems we face as individuals trying to regain our grip on truth and reality, and the combination of the two; what is your true reality? The one which you want to inhabit, the unaltered state you wish to exist within.
Firstly, we have this notion of a ‘psy-op’ or ‘psychological operation’, these are reportedly operations in which governments or groups use selected information to emotions, feelings, motives and objective reasoning in a way which benefits them. This has lead many people to state things such as ‘Everything’s a psy-op!’ and I certainly understand where they’re coming from, but with that said, the advertising and marketing isn’t covert in its aims, so it can hardly be considered an ‘operation’ as much as it is simply doing what it’s supposed to be doing. The difference with a psychological operation is that you’re presented with something which has far more going on behind the scenes. I don’t want to get too deep into this sort of thinking, not because I don’t believe it, but because it’s largely unproductive. Discerning whether or not something is X, Y or Z is useless if my real aim is simply to discern whether I actually want, need or agree with it. It doesn’t matter where it came from, what matters is if and how I can get away from it.
But what is it here that I consider the real ‘psychological operation’? – a globalised form of ADD induced by increasing usage of social media based dopamine stimulation devices – This is relatively simple, basically our increasing smartphone and social media usage is shredding our attention span – supposedly from 12 – 8 seconds in the space of 20 years – and it’s also feeding our reliance on dopamine feedback response, that is, the chemical we release when things make us feel good is being utilized by social media mechanisms to get us addicted to their systems. We are quite literally rats clicking a button for a bit of cheese over and over again, all day, every day. But actually, the metaphorical cheese in this scenario isn’t as clear as one might like to think, hence the idea of a ‘psy-op’.
So, what’s the cheese then? Well the cheese that us rats are perpetually running after isn’t some malleable ‘thing’, nor an item, nor is it some clear idea, in fact, by its very nature it cannot be able to be grasped, otherwise, the chase ends. So, what is it we’re after? What is it these dopamine-feedback-loops and pleasure-response-systems have us scuttling towards? Well, a few things, all of which come under some rough label such as ‘desired abstraction’ or ‘created desire’ or ‘idealistic utopia’, everything these systems target us towards is simultaneously seemingly reachable and yet continually buildable. What I am specifically talking then? Well, specifics are tough with things like this, because, once again, if the ‘things’ we were searching for were specific we would be able to grasp them in some manner, right? So, if you want someone to keep on using your system and keep on plugging-into your feedback loop, the endgame needs to be both desirable and both supposedly attainable yet corporally unattainable.
Status is the clearest example of this, in fact, status encapsulates most of what happens on social media. Everything posted, every little update, every extroverted appeal for attention is in some form a plea for an increase in status. If one posts an obscure text they wish to seem cultured, if one posts a picture of their flashy car they wish to be seen as wealthy, if one posts a cute picture with their girlfriend they wish to be seen as ‘that couple’, of course, I’m generalising, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ‘sharing’ your life with other people, if that’s what you want to do. It’s only that once you apply mechanisms such as ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, ‘hearts’ etc. to your personal life and posts, then it is immediately subsumed into a system of quantifiability, it can be compared with other lives and posts upon a simple binary metric of positive and negative, your life, becomes reduced to data, this is the psy-op.
What does this psy-op achieve? in a global temporal attention deficit where we have no understanding of the past or deep-time, and live entirely in the nano-present. – Once again, relatively simple, but it begs a little more explanation. When we look at that previous feedback-loop and take status as our example once again, we begin to realise that our relationship with time is entirely constricted by something as simple as likes and retweets, everything about them begs reverence and attention only at the present. One could argue that one is attempting to build something for more likes and more status, but that is always held in abstract, and one’s understanding is that achievement is made via more quantity of social-media’s dopamine feedback responses. In that, yes, one might be abstractly targeted at the future in some manner, but it’s a future which is inherently tied to a mechanical notion of the now. The past spans ‘back’ billions of years, the future is the abstraction of all potential, and we’re being drawn into the most minute of presents, ones which have not only passed us by, but are being continuously remembered, not as an exercise in learning, but as a social proof. ‘Here is my present! Look at it and see how great it was! See how cultured I am!’
The ’nano-present’ isn’t the present as it’s understood in the philosophy of time, it isn’t Deleuze’s retention of the past and expectation of the future, it has nothing to do with Bergson’s duration, it isn’t Heidegger’s existential ensemble, nor is it even part of any ‘common-sensical’ linear conception of time; the nano-present is void of all connection to anything that surrounds it, to the extent that it refuses the existence of the past and the future. The nano-present is the pure atomization of time into distinct islands of abstraction, so small and ignorant in their existence that they have no means of communication, and believe only in their own essence, they are presents which exist within themselves. The next nano-present doesn’t arrive in any form of connection, but as a teleportation, we are all at once within an infinity of presents which are too nauseated by the acceleration of atomism to ever reach out and care for another present, however vapid it might be.
The action is relatively clear here, because nothing I’ve written is anything new, and everything I’m doing is within the same systems I critique. How does one avoid getting trapped then? I would advise creating a mental habit, in that when you check your phone or PC, before you do anything, you question why it is you opened that certain tab, app or page etc. Is it out of use and utility, out of creation and personal choice? Or have you become a slave to a habitual dopamine-response-routine?
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