January 23./ Leaving Social Media (again)

Staying off social media has been an interesting change in my life lately. A couple weeks ago I decided to deactivate my Facebook account and remove SnapChat, Instagram, and a couple other apps from my phone. The motivation for this decision was a bit blurry and undefined.

A few times each year I get frustrated at something. I struggle to define what it is exactly. Not only in communicating this to others but I struggle to understand what it is within myself. Sometimes it feels like loneliness, other times it feels like a desire to retreat from others.

There were various reasons for this withdrawal; social media’s inability to duplicate one-on-one relationships with other people, how distracting it can be to wonder if I have any notifications (or that I can neurotically check them at any moment), the onslaught of memes that deliver humor but lack substance, or finally how blindly this can consume large pockets of my life.

Perhaps it’s out of nostalgia but MySpace will always feel like the original social media to me. It didn’t have an instant messenger and there was no infinite NewsFeed to scroll through. Although it supplemented relationships, it never felt like it was replacing them.

With live video on Facebook, Messenger installed for texting, and customized NewsFeeds, it feels like Facebook has deeply ingrained itself in how I maintain relationships with my friends and family. Leaving social media has felt like I’ve hacked away at those relationships.

One relationship that’s particularly damaged at the moment is the one that I have with myself. Empty moments where normally nothing demands my attention have disappeared. Between tasks, I pull out my phone and check for updates. It’s not that I’m desiring news but that I’m filling periods where I’d normally be doing nothing.

For example, when I wake up I silence my alarm and check my phone. When I go to the bathroom, I’m scrolling through a newsfeed. If there isn’t a conversation going on in the car with friends, I probably have my phone out. Sometimes when I’m walking I’m looking at Facebook more than I’m looking at my environment.

What am I looking for? I’m not sure exactly. Exciting news? To cover moments that I would feel bored? To stay ‘connected’? Maybe a mixture, I haven’t really figure it out. What I do know is that the cost of looking for these things is my attention. And my attention, unfortunately, is limited.

The content of social media is mostly white noise. My Facebook NewsFeed consisted of  only a couple stories relevant to my friends and family when I left. It was mostly memes, politics, recipes, lots of ads, and irrelevent short videos. There was no central substance or social expression of my friends other than sharing someone else’s content.

Don’t get me wrong, this content can be interesting and expresses what a person likes – but it does not foster social connection in a way that justifies how much time I spend using it.

It isn’t like binging a TV show on Netflix where you finish a season of your favorite show and wonder where the weekend has gone. It’s so much more subtle than that. Those empty moments I spoke about before; rolling over in bed in the morning, riding in the car with friends, even walking down the street; they’re valuable.

It’s hard to define their worth because these moments are empty. Normally we would be doing nothing in their absence. But emptiness itself is valuable. It’s filled with possibility and needed transition time.

In the car with friends, maybe I’ve missed conversation because I’ve been on my phone. Or maybe there’s a bond that happens when multiple people are together, not distantly looking at Facebook, even if nothing is said. When I’m out walking and looking at my phone, maybe I’m too zoned out from what’s actually happening around me. Maybe I need to let my mind idle for a few minutes before I get where I’m going.

I just know that I’ve felt restless and unable to define why. I’ve felt busy, though I’ve accomplished nothing. I’ve felt lonely, though I’m connected to many people. I struggle to balance this and I know that many other people feel the same way and perhaps they don’t understand it either.

So disconnecting myself hasn’t ultimately changed my life. I still wake up and go to work each day. I’m not filled with tranquility or any other emotion. But I do notice the empty moments now.

When I sit at work and everyone around me is on their phone, I open my eyes and look around. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I stretch in my bed and begin the day without taking on the burden of knowing what’s happening somewhere else. I can sit down with my breakfast and gaze out the window at the bustling world – knowing that ultimately I’m here. There’s no notification, no urge to fill the empty moments with empty content, no reason to neurotically try to strengthen relationships with others. Just here and now.

 

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Creating Content

As I sit in our dorm’s community room, I can’t help but look at the others in here who, like me, are scrounging for the free internet. There’s four of us sitting here in each corner of the room, all staring at our computer screens. Two of the guys are watching videos while the other one is playing an online game. They sit entranced by the content that they are viewing and it makes me think about this generation.

With how much focus we put into ingesting internet media, what is our output? The average viewer on YouTube doesn’t make videos. People view so much more content than they create. Think about how many people you’re following on Twitter, Instagram, or how many friends you have on Facebook. What is your view-to-create ratio?

I don’t want to suggest that ingesting media is bad but I can’t help but wonder what we’re contributing. Social media is incredibly interactive and you now have the ability to contact the content creators you admire, yet most people don’t interact with these people. Instead we just wait for more content.

I think that the underlying feeling is “why create in a world full of creators?”. Most people think that they don’t have anything to contribute and therefore they don’t try it. Our generation, in reality, is closer to the stars than any previous generation, yet we also feel the most powerless towards them. You could FB message, Tweet, Instagram, or comment on YouTube to almost any star and maybe get a response.

I don’t have an answer on why you should create or why I create. I just do. Sometimes the content is great, sometimes it’s incredibly boring. But it’s interesting how we live is such a free world but we’re so paralyzed by everything. It’s like sensory overload and too much to handle.

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21/31 Blogtober

Connections through Dreams

Before starting this, realize that this is all dream talk. It’s more of a digestion of thoughts than a concrete post. I wanted to explain how I make connections in my head but the mind is a difficult thing to explain. We each think different and therefore this may be hard to read. It’s basically a 1,000 word digestions of thoughts!

This post was also written a few months ago. I’ve been taking time to look back through drafts and to start posting old content. There’s a lot of things that I’ve chosen not to share and I suppose now is a good time to share them. As this 365 draws near to an end, I’ve realized that sometimes the purpose of content isn’t to be perfect – it’s just to share or express. Emily Haines said in an interview, “The point is to express a feeling. And there are a thousand witty things that you can say a thousand witty ways, but the idea is not to be impressive, but to be emotive.”

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For the last week I’ve been having weird dreams. Not that it’s uncommon for me to walk on walls or remove gravity completely while I’m sleeping but there’s been something more. The transitions between my dreams have become apparent and I’ve started to realize how my mind connects ideas.

It started around three or four years ago when I first started traveling alone to Spain and Denmark. Before then, most people I knew lived within 100 miles of my house. Once I began crossing the ocean, my friends were on the other side of the planet. Therefore, when I had a dream that I biked to Spain, then over to Denmark, in a matter of hours, I knew it was fake.

Over the years I’ve become lazy in my dreams. Instead of biking considerable distances while I sleep, everything exists on one island. One location that leads to all of the others. It’s interesting that these locations blend together seamlessly and it’s difficult to notice anything unusual while I’m dreaming.

Lately, this island has become defined and I remember it in my waking life. I want to say that the island is perfectly round but I’m not sure. All I know is that there’s a giant building in the center. When I first “wake up” in my dream, I walk from the ocean to the front door. There isn’t a door as much as an 8 foot tall by 5 foot wide opening into the building.

Inside, there is a large kitchen that reminds me of Japan. It’s a flat stove that looks like a hibachi grill, and there’s many tables in front of it. I haven’t been to Asia yet, but it looks like a food place I liked in Seattle. The room is always full of younger kids, with the exception of the cook, who looks to be a weary 35-year old Japanese woman. Steam rolls off from the grill and there’s always a noticeable amount of humidity in the room.

Next to the kitchen is a staircase, there’s nothing unusual about it other than that it leads to a small doorway. The gap is covered in a curtain and the children run up and down the steps. Once up the staircase, there is a hallway that is filled with various doors. I can’t remember what each door leads to but there’s one that leads into the Spanish apartment I stayed in for the years 2010-2013.

The gaining apartment varies between the place I stayed at on the ocean, and the one that was in Bilbao (a Basque city). The point of this door seems to be to send me across the ocean. Rarely do I stay in that apartment, it just gets me over to Spain.

If you continue down that hallway, you’ll find a staircase that leads outside. There’s no door and it connects directly with a beach. The sand is rough and blown into very small dunes. Around the beach there’s grass growing and fencing similar to the Danish beaches I’ve seen. This is my gateway to either the ocean or Denmark.

If I continue down that beach, there is an unusually tall building in the midst of a city. In that city there are only 5 or 6 buildings, and none of them serve a purpose. The tallest building had an elevator inside that leads around 50 floors up. At the top, my friend from Denmark lives.

The layout of this dreamscape is concrete in my mind but when I’m dreaming, I easily get lost. That door that leads to Spain is often ambiguous and hard to find. I usually get too entangled in the Danish beach to find that miniature city. I ask directions but the children in that kitchen are Spanish and don’t speak English.

Everything is bizarre about it but there’s one thing that makes sense: this is how I connect very distant locations into one area. Instead of biking for hours in my mind, I can just walk down the hall into Spain or elsewhere. This island functions as a mental airport where I can deliver myself to any location.

Perhaps our mind connects ideas in the same way: we create shortcuts between ideas that are difficult to get to. We can tie one scent with a location so that we can easily remember it. We store information in these connections so that we can tie recurring information with information that we don’t commonly access.

For example, we may tie the feeling of carpet with a particular memory. Each time we step on that carpet, we’re reminded of that memory. In a more complex example, that carpet may tie to something more intricate, like the feeling of seeing your parents after a long trip. Not the visual memory but the feeling. Every time you step on that carpet, you’re reminded of that feeling when you saw your parents after a year separation.

We commonly experience this with smells: I have days that I walk into the bathroom at work and it smells like the summer camp I worked at in 2008. Each time I walk in there, it’s like I’m transported back to then. This tie hasn’t been used in a very long time and it’s very rare that I think about 2008. Therefore, connecting the two is very important. When I smell that, I remember a basically dead memory. If there was no connection, I would totally forget that memory.

If any of you reading this have taken psychology, this would be the connection between the neurons. To keep neurons strong, you connect them. However, it seems unusual that an old connection could still be awoken.

By placing all of these locations nearby in my dreams, it’s like I’m able to skate down these old paths. Instead of having to explore through my whole head, I’m able to go straight to Spain. I don’t have to imagine driving to the airport, going through security, finding my gate, getting on the plane, et cetera. I just walk through a door.

What’s even more interesting is that I use a door to get to Spain while getting Denmark by walking down a beach. In my head I must retain the concept of a door: to connect two locations. For some reason, Denmark isn’t this able to be traveled to so easily.

I guess the lesson here is that dreams are weird. I feel like I have greater understanding of how my mind connects locations now. Anyways, that was really difficult to explain. If you read this far, I’m impressed! The human mind is such a weird instrument.

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16/31 Blogtober

Mirroring Others

My entire life, I’ve always been part of a diverse crowd. In high school, I surrounded myself in every clique. When I wanted to do art, I hung out with the art group. Likewise, if I wanted to talk about travel, I’d go hang out with the foreign exchange students. No clique fully satisfied me and I found myself moving from group to group.

There wasn’t one group that I really fit into. I didn’t listen to the same music as my emo friends or care about my grades enough to always be with the smart kids. But I could hang out with any crowd. In the last year I’ve started to figure it out and notice a trait in myself – I tend to mirror the people around me.

What that means is, when I hang around artsy people, I become really artsy. When I hang around my foreign friends, I become really travel oriented. I tend to gain the group’s traits, both positive and negative. I think most people are this way. If you hang around a person who always talks about one topic, eventually you’ll start to talk about that topic too. There’s a quote by Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.

So, the first question should be; who do you want to be? Are the people you surround yourself with similar to that image? In the last year, I’ve found that the people I surround myself with aren’t who I want to become. My friends are great but I don’t think I’m maturing with them. If you want to be adventurous, surround yourself with adventurous people. Inevitably, you’ll start to take on their traits. If you want to be more artistic, find the art community or take a community education class. You mirror your environments, make sure what you’re mirroring is what you want to reflect in yourself.

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13/31 Blogtober

P.S. I’m active on Twitter again! Follow me @EricAlbee

Day of Happy

Today’s post is inspired by Joel Robison‘s 100 days of happy project on Instagram! He just completed it last Wednesday! For this project, you take a photo of what you’re happy about in life for 100 days. While I’d love to participate in the project, I’m juggling this 365 project with work. Instead I’ve decided to blog today about things I’m happy about in my life!

A few months ago I bought Brooke Shaden‘s book “Inspiration in Photography” but I’m just starting to read it now! It’s so exciting to see an artist that I’ve watched grow on Flickr publish a book. It’s beautiful and I definitely recommend it!

After a couple weeks of procrastinating, I finally pinned maps onto the wall! It’s starting to feel homey in here!

With a gift card I received from my aunt for my birthday, I purchased Amanda Palmer’s upcoming book “The Art of Asking”. She’s a wonderful human-being and her music is fantastic. It’s incredible that she’s finally releasing a book!

Finally, Bath’s entire album “Obsidian” is incredible. I think I listened through this album 3 times today because I love it so much! Seriously Baths is an incredible artist!
Those are today’s moments of “happy” or “appreciation”. Maybe in the future, after this 365 project, I’ll do a #100daysofhappy or something! It’s a wonderful project and I encourage you to check out the tag on Instagram!

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11/31 Blogtober

P.S. Still happy about this:

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“The Sound of Colors” by Jimmy Liao

Last year I fell in love with a music album “Starry Starry Night” by world’s end girlfriend. Specifically the track “Storytelling“. In the fall, I played it when I woke up each morning and before I went to bed every night. Eventually I learned that the CD was written for a movie which shared the album’s name. It wasn’t until August that I watched the movie and fell in love.

The illustrator Jimmy Liao wrote the book “Starry Starry Night” which was adapted into a film. This is becoming complex but I fell in love with Liao’s work. I wanted to see all of it! The book arrived in the mail and I immediately read it completely.

“The Sound of Colors” is about a girl who is becoming blind. She starts by saying that her slight is slipping. The illustrations are of a young girl walking with cane into a subway. As the book progresses trains take her far into her imagination. She tells the reader about how she imagines what the world looks like. The scenes are filled with vibrant colors and beautiful words.

I found that I related to her perspectives and what she was going through. She writes about becoming lost, and having to move forward into the dark. These trains could lead her anywhere – they are the paths we pick in life. While the book is simplistic, Liao has a beautiful way of illustrating and I look forward to reading more of his books in the future. If you haven’t looked it up already, you can check out the book here!

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3/31 Blogtober

There’s a few days left before Blogtober, this is why you should join in!

October is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate than to blog! While I’m already writing daily, I want to challenge you to blog for 31 days straight. All you will need is a few spare minutes and a cheerful attitude.

Below I’ve included a few details about the event:

Why do this project?

Blogging is a great way to record your life and express yourself. It’s also a fun way to decompress after a long day. Writing has given me a greater perspective on my life and helped me both set and accomplish my goals. I encourage others to write because it gives you time to contemplate your days and focus your energy into one product.

After only 31 days, you’ll have something to look back at. For some, this project will be easy. Others will find it difficult because they don’t feel like they have anything interesting to share. Take that as motivation to make your life more interesting. Cook new foods and write about it, go to the movies and write a review, try something new and share it! Blogging can be as simple as punching the keys on your computer, all you have to do is reach for the keys.

Who should join in?

I believe that everyone has something to contribute. Writing is a simple way to get your voice out there and to get feedback. When you write on a computer, you have the ability to read what you’ve written. This creates a loop where you can look at your ideas/thoughts from a greater perspective. You can modify them, erase them, bold them, whatever you want.

By interacting with your thoughts, you can start to understand yourself in a new way. You have the ability to see who you are and how you think. There are many days that I write and look back over what I’ve written with much surprise. Sometimes we don’t know what we know. Every person could benefit by spending just 10 minutes a day writing.

How much should I participate?

This is entirely up to you! When I began this 365 project, I set a few rules for myself. I encourage you to find what works best for your writing/blogging needs. These are some of the rules I chose, feel free to adopt a few of them or modify them as needed:

100 words minimum a day!

Writing at least 100 words daily makes the task easy to do but difficult to B.S.. It only takes a few minutes to write and I’ve found that I usually want to write more. 100 words is a strong enough commitment that I can’t just write one sentence.

Guest Blogging/ Collaborations count!

If you get a friend to write on your blog, that counts as a post! Collaboration is a great way to build friendships and to provoke thought. Everyone has a different perspective and a unique style of writing. Guest blogging helps introduce you to other bloggers and new topics that you could potentially write about in the future.

Video Blogging (Also known as “Vlogging”) is acceptable

Videos tend to be more in-depth that text posts for me. I can usually talk about more information while chatting on the camera than typing away. This option allows you to have more variety during your project.

Posts must be made in one conscious period

This means you must post sometime between when you wake up and when you go to bed. Rather than pushing off your writing to the next day, you must do it. It’s just a simple rule that helps regulate your posts. This one is definitely a measure of discipline.

Where should I post?

You can blog anyway! Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are all forms of microblogging. While I encourage you to write on a blogging platform like WordPress.com or Blogspot.com, feel free to write anywhere. Blogtober is about your experience of blogging, no matter where you choose to write. It doesn’t matter what you have to say or why you have to say it, only that chose to express it.

 

Happy blogging everyone!

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