it’s all #fakenews …

As human beings we live in two worlds.

There is the external physical world. The world where we can touch a tree, watch a wren dart from shrub to shrub, scratch our elbow when it itches.

Then, there is the world of our mind and imagination. The world where we can feel hurt by what that person said and imagine what they meant. We can dream about our tomorrow and recall distorted truths of our past. A world where we believe the stories and myths of our mind. Our own fake news generator, if you will.

This second world is a virtual reality that can appear and feel just as real as the external physical world. The shoulds and musts are powerful, motivating, compelling.  Indeed, when it comes to your emotions and your imagination, the virtual world of your mind can be more real than the real world.

Our mind seems to muddle these two worlds. What is true? What is real? What is imagined? What is story? What is fake?

It seems too that our society is slowly shifting to value this second virtual world more than the first real, physical world.

For now it seems, in our modern media enabled world, we not only create our own virtual stories and myths, not only listen to those of our family and friends – those we might meet within the real world – now, we are bombarded by the stories, myths and imaginations of billions of others from around the globe. Real people we will never meet, with all their distorted stories of self and associated experience.  And we believe them. Or respond to them. Or worry about them. Or take them on as ours.

Recently, I read that more than 15% of Twitter’s 319 million users were not human. So not only are we engaging with the thoughts of other people, people we don’t know; we are listening to robotic programmed outputs from 48 million unknown devices. All adding to the melting pot of real and unreal, true and imagined, solid and distorted.

Yet each interaction is enhancing our own virtual sense of the truth. Augmenting our own thoughts and emotions. Building a more complex, layered perception of self, our place in the world and all its global dangers and intents. Causing us to be more curious, more mentally stretched, yes. Enticing us to respond, to debate. Yet also to worry, to feel pressurised, scared even. It drives a need to know. A need to be part of. Inclusion not exclusion. Powerful emotional draws deep within our ancient animal brain.

I wonder if this contributes to the rise in mental health and well-being issues? I wonder what this holds for our future as a species?

The internet increasingly drives our lives. You’re using it now to read this. We read reviews of products from unknown people and trust them. We read tweets from unknown people and respond to them, emotionally, cognitively. We scan page after page of Facebook posts, skipping across our timeline like a never ending movie.

You are reading this blog. In one sense it’s not real.

I am of course.

But these thoughts are the creations from within my mind, my virtual world. True, you can choose to ignore them. You might see reason in them. You might concur. You might though, above all else, wonder what else you interact with in the world that isn’t real?

Challenge yourself to be curious; to question what you hold in your head and how that in turn impacts your thinking and how you feel. Is it real? Is it your imagination? Or is it a distortion of someone, or something, that doesn’t serve you well in maintaining your mental and emotional well-being? Maybe anything that does that, whether true or not, is the real fake news?

Maybe take time to stand with your hand on a tree.  Ground yourself.  The tree is real.

Go well people.

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off the grid in a hot tub

North Carolina

Watching the sun set through a gap in the tree line, whilst enjoying a beer in a hot tub. Rocking gently in chairs as old as the cabin, whilst the twilight and sounds of the forest consumed our awareness. The porch our new domain. Waking in the morning to the sounds of rainfall on the tin covered cabin roof, echoing through the silence of our isolation.

I have spent two days, off grid. No 4G, 3G or 2G, no wifi, or signal of any description.

It seemed strange and in contrast to a few days earlier in the Washington DC metro where, on a platform of maybe fifty people, I had counted only six who were not engaged with their mobile phone.

We live in an Internet world. So much so, that to be without it for only two days seems unfamiliar. As if something is missing. It seems frustrating because connection with the outside world is lost. Yet what is rediscovered is a connection with a different outside world. One of nature, contemplation, beauty.

The cabin had a visitor book, where many before us had recorded their message after their stay. A book. Even that a throwback to a time recently lost. Not an online feedback or comments page, no star rating or ‘liking’. Instead personal messages to our host. Many had recorded their enjoyment of the isolation and total peace.

There was something pleasing to write our thoughts, knowing that other travellers would happen by, to this cabin in the forest, and read and share with others past, present and future.

stuck in the tunnel of life

stuck tunnel life
My tube train stopped today at Edgware Road. The driver informed us that we would be held there for a while. There was a problem with the train in front.

It got me thinking. If a train becomes completely immovable, what happens then? The tunnel, the only route forward, is blocked. I guess we would all decamp and be forced to exit the platform, leave the station and find another way to our destination. Or I guess we could wait. Wait for life, for someone else to remove the blockage so that we can continue on our chosen path.

It struck me that in the event that this happened, we would just cope. Sure we might moan that we’ll be late, gripe about the cost of tickets and the poor service, worry that we don’t know how to get to our destination, but we would find a way. We would move on. Yet in life we often get stuck and stay stuck. Unable to see another path, we become disabled.

Of course London Underground would probably have staff available. Advice would be on hand. Guidance about how to get to our destination. Failing that, we would simply surface and surf. The Internet would tell us what to do.

Life isn’t like that. Even if people are around to listen or to give advice, our life situation is more complex, more individual, more unique, than the tube journey. The Internet doesn’t offer solutions to complicated life problems, riddled with feelings, entwined with complexities of relationship, weighed down with challenges of expectation, paralysed with the fear of coming up short in some way.

As fellow human beings, we seem hopelessly ill equipped to support each other, even if we were minded to.

Maybe this is the Internet we really need?