The Glorious, Almost-Disconnected Boredom of My Walk in Japan

Excerpt from this article:

I wanted to share my walk too, but without getting caught up in the small loops of contemporary sharing platforms. So here’s where my rules limiting output came into play. Unlike Bird, I wasn’t exploring parts of Japan hitherto unseen by non-Japanese eyes, so a series of lengthy letters to friends didn’t quite make sense. Instead I riffed off the terseness of SMS messaging to share the psychological and physiological experience of the actual walking. Using a custom-built SMS tool, I sent out a daily text and one photo to an unknown number of recipients. One rule of the system was that I didn’t know who had subscribed. The subscribers joined by texting “walk” to a number I wrote on my website and in my newsletters. I’m pretty sure the daily update went out to hundreds, if not thousands of people, but I could not see them.

The recipients could respond, but I’ve yet to see what they said. Those responses have been collected in a print-on-demand book that’s waiting for me when I get back home. My intent is then to respond to the responses in aggregate, long after the walk is finished.

The goal of this convoluted system is to use the network without being used by it. And the purpose of time-shifted conversation is to share the walk without being pulled away from it. I could use a tool like Instagram to approximate this, but I’d have to fight with its algorithm and avoid looking at the timeline. I am not superhuman. I would look at the notifications, the likes, and comments. Reply to them. Become intoxicated by the chemicals released by the tiny loops. Invariably this process would make me think about that audience and how they would be reacting to the next text and photo. I would have lost the purity of the experience. And yet, with global network connectivity, there’s no reason to not also broadcast, in part, in real time. To both consider the experience and share it with immediacy. The daily SMS became a forcing function that deepened my experience of the walk, made me more aware of how painful or joyful or crushingly boring the days were. Being able to share in somewhat real time and not be pulled out of the moment was just an issue of tools and framing.

 

In China, a Podcast Inspired by ‘This American Life’ Gives Voice to the Real

Excerpt from this article:

Taking inspiration from American programs like “This American Life” and WNYC’s “Snap Judgment,” Mr. Kou’s “Gushi FM” (Story FM in English) features stories told in the first person by ordinary Chinese of various backgrounds.

The show highlights stories from both the margins and the mainstream of society. They are tales of loneliness, heartbreak, adventure, betrayal, love, loss and the absurd — stories of a kind not often publicly shared in this age of so-called humblebrag social media.

The Internet Has a Cancer-Faking Problem

A line of pink flowers

Excerpt from this article:

This condition of faking illness online has a name: “Munchausen by internet,” or MBI. It’s a form of factitious disorder, the mental disorder formerly known as Munchausen syndrome, in which people feign illness or actually make themselves sick for sympathy and attention. According to Marc Feldman, the psychiatrist at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa who coined the term MBI back in 2000, people with the condition are often motivated to lie by a need to control the reactions of others, particularly if they feel out of control in their own lives. He believes that the veil of the internet makes MBI much more common among Americans than the 1 percent in hospitals who are estimated to have factitious disorder.

The Dead May Outnumber the Living on Facebook in 50 Years

Excerpt from this article:

Findings from OII indicate that at least 1.4 billion Facebook members will die before the year 2100. In that scenario, based on last year’s user levels, experts believe the dead will surpass the living on the social media platform by 2070.

The report looks at this phenomenon in the extreme, predicting that the number of dead users could grow as high as 4.9 billion before the end of the century. Researchers believe dead profiles will proliferate from non-Western countries, particularly in Asia where numbers could raise to 2 billion by 2100.

What It Takes To Put Your Phone Away

Excerpt from this article in the New Yorker (which I say in case it eats into your allotment of free monthly articles):

Every week, it seems, a journalist will proclaim, on Twitter, that he is leaving Twitter, or will write an op-ed about how he’s stepping away from social media—a style of essay so common that it was parodied, last month, in the Wall Street Journal.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans have taken steps to distance themselves from Facebook. Entire families try to observe a “digital Sabbath.” Parents seek screen-time alternatives to the Jungian horrorscape that is children’s YouTube.

[Georgetown computer-science professor Cal Newport] defines a digital minimalist as someone who drops “low-quality activities like mindless phone swiping and halfhearted binge watching” in favor of high-value leisure activities such as board games, CrossFit, book clubs, and learning to “fix or build something every week.” The goal is a permanent change of outlook and behavior, like converting to veganism or Christianity, in service of a life that is more holistically productive—one in which we turn to digital technology only when it provides the most efficient method of serving a carefully considered personal aim. When you’re first learning to become a digital minimalist, it’s important, Newport explains, to keep doing stuff.

The Mommy Blog Is Dead. Long Live the Mommy Blog

Excerpt from this article:

We are moms, and we’ve come here to learn how to make money by being moms.

We are so very tired. When we leave this conference we will go to our jobs, our children, to a pile of dishes and toys strewn across the floor. But right now, we are sitting here, beautiful, taking notes, feeling feelings, learning how to monetize our identities as mothers. And we will do this through Instagramming, blogging, podcasting, Facebooking, working with advertisers, knowing our angles. We are preparing ourselves to perform motherhood with a hashtag.

“We call motherhood sacred,” she says. “We trap women into that sacred space. And they can’t even make money off of it?”

Chasing the Aurora Borealis

Excerpt from this article in the New Yorker:

They’d been in Inari for four nights, and had seen a faint glow one evening, after being roused by the hotel’s Aurora Alert. It hadn’t impressed them. “Definitely not worth being woken up for,” they said. They talked about the disparity between photographs of the aurora borealis and what you can actually see, making some technical point that I didn’t take in at the time, and grumbled, “They ought to tell you about this.”

We discussed why the aurora often looks so much better in photographs. He explained that a camera on a tripod, set for a five-second exposure, takes in far more light than the human eye does when it looks at something, and consequently it produces a more vivid image. A camera can turn even relatively weak displays into dramatic pictures—and these images can then be subjected to digital enhancements. Posted online, the pictures are automatically sharpened by the high-contrast settings of most social-media platforms, and further boosted by the backlit screens of our devices. Cumulatively, these improvements have encouraged unrealistic expectations. “It’s a shame,” Skogli said. “You have a responsibility to show the truth.” He has tried to open a discussion on the subject within the tourism industry, without success. In a rare departure from diplomatic geniality, he dismissed most Instagram photos of the lights as junk—“digitally colorized files to produce likes.”