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Susie Wild is a poet, writer, journalist, critic, lecturer, festival organiser and editor based in Cardiff. Her debut poetry collection 'Better Houses' is out now through Parthian Books. 'The Art of Contraception' was her first book. It was long-listed for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2011 and won 'Fiction Book of the Year' in the Welsh Icons Awards 2010. Her Kindle novella 'Arrivals' was released globally through Parthian Books in May 2011. She edited the illustrated short story anthology 'Rarebit' for Parthian's 21st birthday, released December 2013. Illustrated by John Abell. She is Publishing Editor at one of Wales' Leading Indie Publishers, Parthian Books. @Soozerama

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

It’s time to log off for your own happiness

Yes, I do get the irony of blogging about this article in this week's WM...

Do you know your own Google ranking? Is life only happening if it is worthy of a status update and are the number of your Twitter followers in danger of overtaking @stephenfry? Writer Susie Wild insists all this online interaction is making us deeply unhappy, and the only way to reconnect is to unplug ...
THERE was a time you’d only Google someone when you were playing the dating game.
It was meant to minimise the risk that you wouldn’t be compatible – you wouldn’t like their job, their hobbies or, perhaps, their face.
Thanks to being adults post-internet, when you typed in their name to the search box, chances were that your potential suitor’s workplace website, Facebook page, and embarrassing Flickr albums would appear to you within seconds: them asleep, them drunk, them kissing someone else, those college fashion mistakes – their wedding day.
Then, employers seeking reliable employees got in on the act, vetting their applicants online.
Today using the internet to rate the chances of happy ever after with others has instead become a way to quantify happy ever after with yourself.
We seem to have forgotten that the quality of our life, not quantity of our interactions, is what is most important.
Thanks to our obsession with Twitter and Facebook, we’ve become needy youths again.
In modern life we remain forever-teenagers, frozen in the land of playground petulance, painfully aware of how our every move is monitored, judged, and rated by our peers and anyone else who “matters”.
We Google ourselves, we feverishly click the @ button on Twitter to find out who cares about what banal status we’ve just posted, we’ve spiralled into a self-obsessed state of being.
I’d argue it all began when celebrity culture switched to reality culture.
Now each of us stars in our very own Truman Show, competing for the goldfish attention spans of everyone else – “Look at me, LOOK at me, LOOK AT ME!” – and bursting into panic attacks if nobody does.
We broadcast our every thoughts across the social networks, we gather “likes”, “fans” and “followers” to inflate our self-obsessed egos even more and apologise to them for any digital absences as a popstar would for cancelling a tour date.
But if X Factor proves only one thing, it is that we are not all popstars.
Still we transmit our personal thought feeds through technology that massages the individual, the “I” ever present from the iPad to the iPlayer.
We are immersed in ourselves and our present, and any future plans and consequences no longer appear to register on our radars.
Everything has become blurred – our on and offline personas, our public and private lives, our social and business circles.
We are continuously networking and self-promoting on our oh-so-smart phones, improving our online CVs to attract new work, new lovers and new “friends”. But if our phones are being smart does that make us act more stupid?
Elias Aboujaoude is a Silicon Valley psychiatrist who has published Virtually You, an intelligent, informative book which looks at how the internet affects our personalities.
The picture Aboujaoude paints is a bleak one.
He believes our increased online interactions are leading to a long list of nastiness including narcissism, viciousness and childishness.
We seek adoration, snap when we don’t get it and then throw our toys about in a tantrum, in extremes, leaving immature dirty protests smeared across the Facebook “walls” of those who have “wronged us” (you may not have done it yourself, but we all have online “friends” who air their dirty digital laundry).
This behaviour is repeated offline, and the way and speed we are used to doing things virtually makes us impatient in our physical interactions with the real world and other “real” people.
If you’re single, especially, the infinite possibilities of new lovers and friends mere clicks away, send delusions of grandeur rocketing – and the impatient nature of this new click click dating could be causing us to cut relationships short.
Online and offline personas are often very different, and with more and more time being spent wired in, whether tweeting on date night, or glued to your Netbook, for some, virtual life and the personas of online communities like Second Life are becoming more real than Real Life.
Ifor Thomas’ new collection of poetry, Stalking Paloma, contains a series of poems written from the perspective of a cyberstalker who falls in and out of love with the singer Paloma Faith – location-tracking the object of his obsession to her local pub.
“I’m reading your tweets,” he writes, “listening to your voice – eye on the door.”
Thomas gets the turning of the screw bang on, for while the internet does have a glorious capacity to reunite lost loves, lost friends, and connect fractured families and nations, it also has a flipside where the darker shadows of our personalities reside.
It’s what the columnist Grace Dent refers to as the angry twitchfork mob.
For when we take a breather from being narcissistic, we turn our attention either to being sycophantic to the people we follow, or we turn mean.
Like the stalkers and the trolls that go into cyber battle on message boards, safe behind their masks of anonymity.
The instant one-click nature of it all can see many act without thinking.
Trigger-happy tweets and status updates, carpet-bombed under the influence of #anger or #alcohol and deleted and regretted in the fail-whale-sized hangover of the following day.
See Cheryl Cole’s cringeworthy one-finger salute pictures recently – posting them seemed so fun at the time.
I could tell you what would make you happier, but I know you are all too busy narcisurfing to have time to read about anyone or anything else.
Instead I’ll sign off with a subtle subliminal message – unplug.
* Susie Wild, from Swansea, is associate editor of literary journal The Raconteur (Parthian Books) whose America issue launches next month. She is also the author of The Art of Contraception and the Kindle novella Arrivals and is currently working on a novel about the dark and the darkly comic sides of human relationships and the internet.

Read More http://www.walesonline.co.uk/showbiz-and-lifestyle/real-life/2011/11/01/it-s-time-to-log-off-for-your-own-happiness-91466-29694862/#ixzz1cXstZmhN

Corrections: I live in Cardiff. I would also like to add that the Cheryl Cole comment was added in by the sub, I don't care what Cheryl Cole does. Thanks!

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