Writerly occupational hazard: Mental DDOSs

DDOS: Distributed denial of service. Shutting down an internet server by launching an attack from a number of sources to overwhelm the targeted system with data.

Exposure to the internet amounts to an effective DDOS on your brain.

There’s too much information out there, and the filters — both in terms of search engine devices and user self-discipline — just aren’t up to the task. It appears we humans are hardwired to be seduced by all the supposed opportunities for information and  social connection, frantically pumping dopamine like lab rats hitting the pleasure-center triggers. Effectively subjecting ourselves to massive DDOSs.

I admit it: the internet is eating my mind.

Spring day darkening:

the locust digital swarm

eats my absent mind.

Collin Piprell
Toulouse-Lautrec

Once upon a time, writers and suchlike eroded their brains with absinthe and syphilis. Probably loads more fun. But now it’s the internet that scarfs the creative energy and focus, leaving little for the fiction writing beyond the crumbs.

And we see an ever-growing chorus of writers who suggest that no one can write a book on a computer that’s connected to the internet. (In a desperate bid to write something worthwhile, one day last week I wrote 40 haikus, which was easier than novelizing. Between haikus and tweets — those sentences in the paragraph above can do double duty as tweets — it’s a terse lad I’ll become.)

So what to do, what to do?

Sara says I should try self-discipline. Or install a nanny app that bars me from the comms programs for set periods. Yeah, yeah, I tell her. But seriously, what can I do?

The Dude, digitally wired.

He sucks at his blogsite, Facebook page and e-mail the way lab rats pump the trigger for wee shocks to their neural pleasure centers in preference to food, sex or sleep, yea and verily unto dropping dead at the switch. (See ‘Interpermeable realities, material & digital’.) What’s different with internet addiction, other than the hits of joy don’t measure up to the pure stuff those rats are getting?

Our digitally wired dude has come to inhabit a digital haze arisen upon the nöosphere, which is a realm of ideas and relations already once or twice removed from immediate experience of material being. The latter has tended to sever him from the moment (see David Abram for an extended discussion of this notion: Spell of the Sensuous); the former, the digital haze, has then diffused and scattered his person — denying him substantial focus, interfering with human relationships (see, e.g., Sherry Turkle, Alone Together)  and smearing his narrative across the collective.

He has been given the illusion of control in a vast and ever-growing psychedeli:

information at his fingertips,

human association (Facebook, Google+, e-mail, blogsites, etc.),

relevance (issue and event bites à la mode),

creative achievement (postings on social networks), and

success (abundant daily mini-doses of “natural” opiates).

Meanwhile his dwelling within this diffuse haze defuses real agency. Items of information bump him about this way and that, where knowledge might instead engage him as agent, as constructor of his world rather than mere Brownian particle dancing away in a sea of anonymous data.

Is it possible to escape the digital daze, the addictive diversion from real challenge, real effort, real creativity, real attention to healthy personal and cultural narratives? Is it too late?

“Hey, I know,” Sara suggests, her tone carefully devoid of sarcasm. “Why doesn’t he try whiling away half the afternoon writing this kind of stuff?”

It’s obvious. Because if he writes this stuff he can post it on the internet. See? Therefore he exists. QED. To do is to be (or is it to be is to do?). Whatever. Be-do, be-do, be-do, baby. (With apologies to Sartre, Plato and Frank Sinatra, respectively.)

So we’re besieged by unrelenting DDOS attacks on our minds. See the following for how we are also outsourcing important cognitive faculties to the internet: ‘Outsource our minds? What a good idea!’ 

The ‘nöosphere’ illustration is from http://www.complexitygraphics.com/NOOSPHERE-Night-images.

2 thoughts on “Writerly occupational hazard: Mental DDOSs

  1. Yes, yes, yes I scream in a way reminiscent of Meg Ryan…yes THAT scene. No don’t go away, I can explain….honest.
    A mere 60 minutes or so ago I was complaining, yet again to my poor medium suffering wife about how I can stand all the information I HAVE to deal with these days. And so much of it, so pointless.
    And then I discover a kindred sporot. Sorry, spirit. So, thank you again Colin, once more you’ve expressed my problems so much more eloquently than I can myself. If I find this on Fuckbook I’l be sure to share it. If not, thanks for venting for me. Anad sharing it with me.
    I’m now off to watch two teams I don’t care about play a sport I no longer care about on an illegal streaming service. I love modern technology don’t you….no me neither. The Luddites had a point you know. Of course you do….until next time…and thanks again.

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