Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Out of Reach

When talking about weekly routines, we usually concentrate on tangible actions; beginning, perhaps, with the unwilling swinging of cold legs out of bed or (if there's time) springing from under the covers to make coffee. Then there might be travelling, working, reading, resting, making, watching, talking, eating, sleeping. These verbs are the markers that define each day. But threaded through the warp and weft of our habits there are screens. You’re reading these musings on one, either compressed on a Smartphone or stretched across a tablet, laptop or computer. The internet is the chain stitch that not only hems our lives, but increasingly loops itself right through them.
Sewing is a curiously apt analogy, whether we compare the hours spent online to pockets of time existing in a strange halfway state between being present and being somewhere else, or whether we acknowledge twitter, facebook, blogs, tumblr, pinterest, instagram and other sites as fibres now tightly wound into each day. What I find intriguing is the way in which we slide so easily between two worlds or modes of being. I still make a differentiation between online and ‘real life’, as do most people. And yet it’s hard to know where exactly that boundary lies.

The internet is a tool for entertainment, discovery, learning, work, creativity and the forging of connections, but sometimes I resent how much it seeps into and consumes time that could be spent doing other things. What have I gained from continual trawling from site to site, or from the desire for an update of any kind - leaving me feeling slightly hollow? The contradiction between being grateful for the opportunities that the internet continues to provide, and the limitations it instates can be tricky to unravel. It was only after I had an enforced and unplanned separation from the internet on my phone and laptop this week that I realized how rarely I spend an evening without my face being lit by the glow of a screen. Unsurprising, considering the hub of multiple possibilities always on offer. If I want to write something, look through or edit photos, listen to music, do research, talk to friends, respond to emails then the laptop is my means.

Technology condenses things down. I’m not complaining. The map function on my phone is a brilliant tool for navigating around unknown parts of London. Having emails readily accessible means that I can use spare moments to respond and catch up. However, the proximity of one thing to another can lead to blurring. It now takes a certain amount of exertion to focus entirely on the document that's in front of me; easy to take flight to the safe refuge of twitter if I hit a tangle in my text that requires some hard work. The intensity of being so immersed in the act of creating that nothing else is relevant is a rare feeling. Even as I type, my finger itches to scroll away and onto facebook. There's no rational reason to do so. I’m not expecting any messages; have no need to contact anyone. It’s merely the vaguely compulsive prospect of there being a little red icon. And if there’s nothing there, easy to just check another site or two. Part of this is neurological. Apparently receiving an update releases a shot of dopamine into the brain; specifically to the ‘pleasure centre’ area, thus creating a pattern of gratification leading to further cravings. The same process happens with addictive substances such as nicotine. A habit is created and subsequently needs to be sated regularly.

Interestingly, the relationship between dopamine and sugar has also been much-documented. Ever had that moment after a single square of chocolate where the rest of the bar suddenly looks intensely desirable? To me, certain aspects of the internet occasionally feel slightly like a selection of sugary snacks. Easily consumed. One click is rarely enough. Instead there are little bite-sized chunks to hop between, each satisfying some internal craving for a moment or two, a hunger for the new notification or the affirmation that you, yes you, exist and someone has proved it by commenting on your status.

Nonetheless, there are so many extraordinary and astonishing aspects to the age in which we live that I'm unbelievably grateful for the opportunities I've been able to seek while sitting at my desk. How else would I have met or communicated with so many wonderful people of varying ages, locations and professions? What other mediums or other times could have afforded any seventeen year old the possibility of constructing a platform with a global reach? The tapping of keys has (if you’ll forgive the image) unlocked plenty of potential, with much more ahead to explore.

The conclusion should be, perhaps, one of balance and moderation (though more easily observed than enacted). Surprising how I consider it an act of willpower now to have written this from start to end with only a single pause to look up and clarify a reference point. But in the last few days Spring has unfurled. I've started reading Crime & Punishment, sketched several portraits, gone for an exhilarating walk in the warm breeze of twilight, had intense face to face conversations over wine with friends, begun the process of revision by way of intricate, inky spider diagrams, visited bookshops and enjoyed the Saturday morning pleasure of coffee and newspapers. There have been a few social media interludes between. Most have been thoroughly enjoyable. But if I can keep them in the shadows of free time rather than the main focus, adding to my days rather than framing them, then that will be pretty wonderful progress.

I thought the location in the photos - a set of crumbling houses tucked away in the Welsh hills - illustrates how quickly things have changed in the last century. The isolation of such a place contrasts with the continual inter-connectedness of modern living. To wander among the stones and trees I wore a vintage velvet Principles dress over a vintage Jaeger wool jumper, with men's leather loafers and second hand accessories. Every item I'm wearing (apart from the tights) was bought from a charity shop. 


Izzy DM said...

Hi Roz,

Loved the description of "the slightly hollow feeling" you experience after "face-tubing." That's the term my husband coined for when I disappear into an internet hole, and I think it's so apt and funny!

I grew up in the very last generation before email and the internet were super-prevalent, and sometimes I feel nostalgic for those days. It was so much easier to concentrate or spend time off day-dreaming, but... it was much harder to stay in touch with people you met on the fly, like my friends from the kibbutz where I volunteered for a whole year. One of them found me recently on Facebook, and I was thrilled! On the other hand when some bullies from middle school were able to find my blog and send me a really cruel email, I was flabbergasted and crushed. That never would have happened in the old days. I also lived in NY before there was as much on the internet as there is now and had to finagle my way into a library membership at NYU, whereas now there are so many free books and articles online, I can always dive in and read up on any topic that fascinates me. (Trust me: you do NOT want to use the public library in New York. Brooklyn is slightly better, but it's mostly pretty gross.)

Anyway it's a fascinating topic. Both times had their pluses, but having experienced both, I think I do prefer now for just the reasons you listed :).

Ivana Džidić said...

lovely outfit and interesting article:)

meital david-pur said...

gorgeous!! love the dress!

Très Jolie blog
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Sofie Marie said...

Such a great article Roz, feels like one of your best (though clearly thats subjective). You typed out my head, and I can only hope that reading this will push me out of internet addiction- a problem I think many people become aware of quickly, though only very slowly overcome.

Anupriya DG said...

Sometimes I feel vintage & velvet were made for you! :)

And yes....there are people around me whose life revolves on the click of a mouse or the tap of a key. They type more status updates than they speak words and they see the world, not through their eyes, but through their smartphones. I, for one, can never see myself morphing into one of 'them'. The internet is a pleasure toy for my free time (read, from 11pm to 3am) and I absolutely intend to keep it so. Any urgent work, in the meantime, is done on my Blackberry.

Gemma Edwards said...

This outfit is perfect for the transitional weather! Lovely!
Petite Bellezza

Helen Le Caplain said...

Love the rich colour of your dress (and your hat!)

Willow said...

I met two of my friends over the Internet and I feel very lucky that I was able to make those connections, friendships over the Internet is probably the thing I value most about it. There are many wonderful things the Internet has to offer, but like you said, it can be hard to focus and write when facebook is so easily accessed. I often find myself giving in to the temptation of clicking away on the Internet, reading blogs and scrolling through facebook when I could be doing more productive things.
Stunning photos, gorgeous you, incredibly enjoyable article and interesting read as always. Both your writing and ethereal shots have inspired me to turn off my computer after I publish this comment, and go outside with my notebook and bearded dragon to go and soak up some sun and sketch.

Closet Fashionista said...

LOVE this look, I'm a big purple fan, haha. I could definitely see myself wearing it.
This is such an insightful post. I do the same thing with my internet and real life, haha...but sometimes it feels like my internet like is my real life because it's where I enjoy myself most. But I agree, I wish I could leave it for a while to enjoy life like it used to be before the internet. I do get to do that every once in a while when we go camping, ha ha.
I should try to make a scheduled time every day to be off my computer. But that's hard when I'm only home for 3 hours a night because of work...ew!

Vix said...

You were definitely born to wear velvet and that Welsh ruin is a stunning location.
I love the internet, I've met some fantastic people through it who I can call friends but I only have access to it at home, I don't even think my mobile phone has a camera. I hate going out and seeing people broadcast their every move, they're not experiencing real life. xxxx

Nina Jankovic said...

I love and really relate to this post. Beautiful images, but I like that you write longer posts because it does make me pay attention to them. Most of the time I'll scroll through and look at images as text is almost too difficult to consume online (something many of us experience).

It's great though when the writing is good and you don't want to stop. Moderation is the most important yes, what I find helpful is limiting my time spent on my laptop. This makes me do things for myself more frequently rather than wasting time... but then there's the smart phone. Sigh. I think as long as you maintain as much control over yourself as possible though, these addictions can be managed. It's so easy to slip away and forget what you are doing online, but I think it can be just as easy to become aware again. The trick is to maintain awareness.

Emalina said...

You put it so well with that phrase 'slightly hollow feeling'. Wise words and a balanced way to be, enjoying time online but filling most of one's time with other ways of being present. Not to mention that doing nothing is an art form (of which I'm great devotee in my spare time!). But it's a pleasure to come out of the shadows to read your lovely post, Roz. That velvet dress is so gorgeous and I love how you wear it with the fabulous hat! We're on a similar wavelength as I'm in velvet on my blog too.


Interesting topic. To be honest, I have actually abandoned my personal Facebook, and now only use one for my blog. It's wonderful how technology has evolved, giving us a platform to correspond and bond with others globally. I have met a few great people that are now real-life friends from the internet, others merely virtual friends. As for the balance of it all with social media I do like to differentiate the two. I am quite a private person, so I like to keep certain parts of my life ... private!
The location is beautiful in the photos, just as your velvet dress and stylish hat. Have a great weekend Roz! /Madison

Ms Jelena said...

You always write the most interesting things to go with your photos! I love love love it :)

Beautiful location and fantastic shots!


casper+pearl said...

in love with this post, and your whole entire blog in general.

lots of love from the casper&pearl girls – a little Aussie fashion brand
casper&pearl blog
xx said...

What you say here is very relevant. It makes me a bit sad to see many (especially young) people so immersed in their smart phones, texting and so forth, that they miss being aware and present.

And yet I have found myself in that blur of information, checking Facebook, for instance, and getting lost in the mindlessness of it all. I reckon the reason is, as you say, that pleasure aspect of getting an update (rather like getting a card or letter in the mailbox) or curiosity or...boredom.

Anyway... You (as always) have a keen and sensitive eye for color combinations. And I like the setting where you shot these wonderful images!

Vintage Fashion London said...

On a style note - you're wearing a gorgeous vintage velvet dress! I've got a similar one myself and it's totally a go-to dress.

Regards the internet, it is strange how much we depend on it in our daily lives. But, then, it is amazing that I am able to make contact with you right now.

I guess that's why so many of us love vintage in the 21st century - it harks to a time long gone, but we re-imagine it by sharing our modern twists and tweaks of the fashion online.

Digital is a definitely a curse and cure!

Vintage Fashion London said...

From a style point of view, I absolutely love your vintage velvet dress. I have a similar one myself and it's totally my go-to dress.

From an internet / digital / social media point of view, I completely agree with everything you have said. Being crushed by no likes on facebook statuses or photos is definitely a worrying outcome. They say social has had a big impact on the self-esteem and body image for that reason.

But, it also has its advantages, as you've pointed out. I think it's pretty amazing that I can enter into the conversation you are having here and be a part of it. When we think back to the days where you had to travel for hours and hours to see a good friend who lived what is now a 2 hour train ride away, it is really amazing. We can just message them if we really need to make contact. I'm not advocating not seeing friends though!! I guess I'm trying to say that the internet allows us to connect with people all over the world with such ease and that's really amazing.

Digital is definitely a curse and cure, isn't it?!

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

I totally agree with you. I really wish I wasn't spending so much time on the internet. It's a bit like a drug...but since the computer is also a work tool, it's difficult to not use it. I remember doing so much more fun stuff before I got a computer though!

shipshapeandbristolfashion said...

The internet is certainly a force that can be used for good or evil, to get a litter superhero on the situation. I find myself wandering over to Twitter or reading blogs when I should be writing, and I think it takes a lot of will power to spend an evening without checking one's phone or laptop. That's why I love going on holiday - as soon as we reach our destination my phone goes off and stays off. The laptop stays at home and I feel so much better for it!

Magical Day Dream said...

I guess our relationship with technology is full of paradoxes; I studied at the university of technology. I always found it fun to design things that woulfd enhance technology but keep us 'in the real world': for my graduation project for example I designed a playful interactive fountain.

Also; cute dress!

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Your thoughts on the internet entirely echo mine (though your thoughts are far more eloquent). It's been taking far more discipline than I imagined to stop "checking" for updates. While I spend a lot of time using the web for fairly intense research, and am extremely grateful for the ease it provides (no more gathering tomes from high library shelves!), there is nothing like the tactile feel of crisp pages between one's fingers. It's been so long since I last curled up with a really good book. And now, I've finally forced myself - and am so rewarded - to have begun reading Jean Jacques Rousseau (about time! I really need to understand the philosophers more). I've been so tempted to underline nearly every single sentence, and would probably do so except that our book is a lovely, leather-bound tract with an attached ribbon bookmark. Shame to defile it with scribbles, somehow.

I love the crumbling setting of your photographs. - J xxx