It seems like yesterday I would sit in my childhood bedroom listening to that iconic serious of abrasive sounds emitting from my computer as it connected to the Internet via the phone line.
I would log into MySpace and AIM and I would spend hours and hours learning to write HTML so I could have the best layout and away messages. I was alone, but I was connected. I could be the version of me I chose to write. It was the coolest thing - something to be excited about and to be envied.
How times have changed.
I posted to Facebook last night that I was feeling exhausted and that I wanted to take a week away from technology in a cabin off the grid somewhere and the response I got was both (ironically) instant and massive. It seems I am not alone in feeling trapped by my constant connectivity.
It’s a “grass is always greener” feeling I have about this strange modern world we live in. I feel empowered by the voice I have online and I love the idea of unlimited information and the rapid sharing of ideas. It’s a good thing... I think?
There’s no denying I’ve made the most of the tools available to me and built a business model that somewhat revolves around the clout I can carry online. But for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction, right? As thankful as I am for the brand I’ve built, I’m also exhausted by it.
Why would I be exhausted by it? That seems like a silly thing to be exhausting, right?
There’s a number of reasons. First and foremost - I work in sales. I don’t always know who is contacting me and why, but it’s pretty damn important that I figure it out before I dismiss it. That’s why getting a lot of responses can consume a lot of my time and mental space. It’s a great thing in the big picture considering some of these networks have resulted in some of my most lucrative business opportunities, but since I’m not at a point in my career to hire a full time assistant quite yet, it means personally going through 1,000 messages from people creeping, sending me nude photos, forwarding hate mail, etc. for every one real connection. That gets tiring. And as nice as it is to feel desired, it’s never nice to feel like a piece of meat to total strangers... especially in the workplace.
Next up, there’s this feeling of comparison and competition that’s ever growing. More followers, more problems. I overhear people in my industry talking about their click rates, follower counts, likes and comments, as if increasing this number is the answer to all of their problems. I promise you, the more you seek a large following, the less fulfilled you will be. I speak from experience. No matter how large your brand gets there will always be competition, you will always see others sharing their best moments, and you will always feel the need to compare yourself to them. That problem doesn’t disappear with an increased follower count.
I’m a naturally competitive person - just ask anyone who has ever played a game with me. I’m in it to win it. So when I see others succeeding, while I’m happy for them, I want to push myself to do more. If they can do it, so can I. The problem here is that I always see the best of their results, and it’s hard to add the mountain of hard work that preceded it to my mental image. I am learning patience with myself and to follow my own timeline and goal path, but seeing constant stories of success makes me feel like I’m somehow falling behind no matter how far ahead I may actually be.
I think (and I could be wrong about this) that most people feel somewhat similar and thats what sparks this reverse excitement about technology when I share something about going off grid for a week.
I wish I had a simple solution to these problems, but there’s no such thing as a simple answer. I do know that happiness is going to be found somewhere in the balance. Now its just figuring out how to best find that balance before falling into another endless scrolling session.
Man, how times have changed.