Being Human in the Age of Digital Obsession

I can’t handle it sometimes. I hear my Skype, Gmail, Facebook and texting alerts all go off at once. I have dozens of tabs open in Chrome. Another email goes off as my inner calmness and serenity implode while I’m hungrily gulping down my second iced coffee of the day. I’m juggling twenty things at once. I want to make more money. I want to provide a nice retirement for my parents. I want to make the world a better place. I want to be a pilot, flying down 400 miles for a cup of coffee at the summit of an epic mountain; away from the dismal, banal and familiar. I want to be an author, self-indulgently writing about how I went from being a depressed, anxious teenager to a 23 year old rock-star.

This is actually a picture of me

I want everyone to read my book and have a cult following so that people pay $100,000 to hear me talk about the same stuff they read in the book.

I want to be the most-coveted, sexiest model first in Buffalo, NY and then the world. My modeling career taking off like no other; kick-starting my acting career and then I can finally get continent-loads of money to say a few words on camera. And everyone will love me.

I want to be the best salsa dancer in the world so that everyone sees power oozing out of me as I dance there on the floor. Sweat dripping down their sexy chins as I turn them and twirl them while their hearts throb to my assertive lead. They feel sexy in my arms. I am after all, a model.

If only I could avoid stepping on their feet, I’d look like that!

All the while, the GTalk, Skype and Facebook alerts continue to ask for my attention. All these distractions. All these dreams. Are these dreams just another distraction?

Meanwhile, people are starving. People can’t get access to clean drinking water. Babies are dying from diarrhea because of that. Cancer is rampant. The foods we are eating are coated with carcinogens because they preserve the food better and we can now make a higher profit of it.

Hold on, I need to pull out a notebook and generate some ideas to make more money. Maybe I can sell people an e-book: “The 7 foods they must eat to not get cancer” and write about broccoli and stuff. Organic broccoli and blueberries. That’s the cure! $19.95, please! Cha-ching. Now I can finally get that plane and pilot’s license, fly to the mountains and drink a nice cup of herbal tea and meditate at the top. I have to tweet about it, of course. It goes without saying I have to tweet while flying over the pretty sights and maybe upload an instagram picture.

This actually happened.

In an age so digitally-wired and connected that teenagers are falling down manholes while they are texting, why do so many of us feel so alone? How many of us text while walking, while at concerts, check our email at a red light? Flick on the iPad when we’re spending precious time with a loved one? Tune out the world around us to tune into something digital and perhaps less real?  Are we more connected or less? What are we truly connected to?

There are of course those moments when we can use an old version of Skype ;) to video chat with our grandparents living half a world away. During those moments I’m truly grateful for all this technology. Once, my grandmother asked me show her how to setup Twitter. She’s in Russia. Why do you need Twitter, grandma?

104 year old grandma on Twitter

I’m really in awe when technology is used to solve big problems. What if we built a huge spaceship; filled it up with all the world’s nuclear weapons, all of its landfill garbage, all the junk that poisons our air, crammed it all in that spaceship and then blasted it off to the edges of the Milky Way? How much would that cost? Could we get crowd-funding?

Do you ever long for simpler times? Even going back just seven years, before iPads existed and before the huge smart-phone boom? The days when we downloaded AIM 5.9, along with DeadAIM to get rid of the ads?

Back when we had an old flip-phone and could share a meal with a loved one and all of our attention was focused on them? Not on the fears of the future, when the next text-crack is going to arrive or what’s happening on our Facebook walls?

I can’t blame the technology. They are simply little addictive inanimate tools, swimming in the sea of the vast world around us; sending us waves of cares when our friends ping us on Twitter. When’s the last time you pinged a loved one with a hand-written letter or drawing? Or simply told them that you love them; not through texting, not through a digital screen of facades, but in-person from your heart?

On a daily basis, I need to remind myself to be more loving, more caring, simply being there for the world around me. Swami Kripalu once said: “Do not fight the dark. Just turn on the light. Let go, and breathe into the goodness that you are. “ I can’t fight the world around me and where it’s heading. I can only be the best version of myself for that world. Someone recently posted a comment on our FB page that made me smile: “How can I download the old version of my own life?” I don’t think you can, my friend. You can simply be here, as you are.

Resist the compulsion. Stay human in the age of digital obsession.

Alexander Levine is the founder of He started the site in 2001 after noticing that the new version of Napster used up all his system resources. You can follow his personal Twitter at @avlevine

6 Comments on "Being Human in the Age of Digital Obsession"

  1. Yelinna says:

    I know If I had a FB account, I will be stuck on it, responding messages, accepting/rejecting people, reading the new comments, links and seing the photos. Also I don’t want a cellphone that has more functions than my desktop PC. Mine is just a lame phone with text messages, period. Also my boyfriend and me like to climb mountains and be totally disconnected during those weekends. That’s healthy, a lot.

  2. Bruce says:

    That is very nice writing my friend. Makes one think about where we’re going… and more.

  3. Cetanska says:

    You are human! I think I heard them say that that will be outlawed soon.

    When that will happen we will be fighting in the same underground, together.

    At work everyone communicates by email. Average people type 40 words a minute; they spend time sifting between emails, and read the right ones at a slower rate than they could talk by picking up the phone. Of course they still have a phone, they just don’t use it…. they type and email to one or two people and they click to send it to everyone in the company… So people communicate at a rate of… say 5-10 words a minute when they can speak to each other over the phone at a rate of 150 words a minute (maybe 200 for women).

    I think The Matrix movies were right on the money. The amazing thing is that everyone goes around pretending they enjoy this madness because they stopped looking at their feelings and they think they feel what the Machine feeds them. This is a dangerous point, my friend and I am happy that you are fighting against it.

    Also, you do not pack some fancy installer that puts yahoo search bars on your internet browser and installs pop up adds on your computer. You will not get far… from being human! And that is good!!

    May I suggest telling people if on this captcha code they have to put spaces because the letters look spaced out and I lost the letter three times and had to rewrite it when I clicked on the back arrow?

    I think many people may be trying to write in response to this essay.

    Thank you,

  4. What an excellent article! This is one of the best articles I have read on the internet for the first time in a long time. I am going to share this article with all my cyber-phobic friends who will probably be very glad to know that they are not alone with the way they feel. :)

  5. Max North says:

    When riding our horses in all 4 directions
    We think we are masters of all we survey.
    To ride willy nilly
    Just makes us look silly
    We just end up dizzy that way.
    by Susan Amann

  6. 2 Bunny says:

    Good article, but you talk about all this “pollution” and “air problems” like they’re real problems. They’re actually not, so you’re free to breathe as you please too. :-)

    - 2B

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