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Monday, 9 October 2017

Refresh-pulling, like-chasing, endorphin-sniffing monkeys

If you lack control over your social media and smartphone habits, Paul Lewis' article on how Our Minds can be hijacked is essential reading.

The article features various social media engineers who have manufactured the apps that help make us the like-chasing, refresh-pulling, attention-seeking endorphin-loving monkeys that we really are.

Justin Rosenstein is the guy who invented the like button on Facebook. He's fully aware of the dangers of social media though and uses apps to limit both his children's and his own use of social media and its associated apps. This is what Lewis says about him;

'He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. 

....Rosenstein appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.

There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”

That 2,617 times is a shocking number but when I started to think about that I wondered if it wasn't also a bit of a target. Maybe there should be an app to count how many refresh pulls you do.

Instagram is especially bad for me for refresh-swiping. I am basically like a monkey scratching an itch on there. But the refreshing thing is pretty much everyone who is active on social media is like a monkey scratching an itch, constantly, repeatedly, except the itch is a phone and not a real itch because if it was real it would be stripped of skin and raw to the touch.

We are all itch-scratching monkeys in other words, chasing likes and employing the politics of the schoolground in who to follow and who to like and what to do on the fecking things. Social media is a democracy then, a democracy of dunces.

One key thing about the article was the Facebook like-notification button was originally going to be blue, low-key blue, but nobody used it. So they changed it to red - and everybody used it.

That's the fundamental level at which our minds work, and social media has tapped into it. In photography, so many people think of themselves as above and beyond these little social manipulations, but really we're not.

We're all itch-scratching algorithm-led monkeys, there's no escaping it. If you have ever pulled down a refresh button or checked a notification ping for no apparent reason, sorry, that's what you are. That's what I am! That's what I've become!

Embedded within that world of apparent positivity that liking and following and checking who likes and who follows is another world; one of infantile competition and envies, of people who follow to get followers, who don't like anything by somebody who doesn't like what they like, of people who live out their cheapness and their insecurities through the like buttons of social media. It's something so many of us do and it really is quite pathetic. But still we do it. I'm trying not to do it, but it's hard!

Anyway, back to my book, All Quiet on the Home Front. We have a date now for the book launch. It's Saturday 11th November at the Tipi stand on the Polycopies Boat at Paris Photo.

All Quiet is available until 23rd October at the pre-order price of £100 for the Subscriber's Edition or £33 for the regular edition. These prices go back to the normal price of £140 and £40 respectively after 23rd October.

Press the button and buy the book below.

Anyway, here are some of the places All Quiet has been featured. The latest is on Thisonthat I answer questions on fatherhood - which was challenging but revealing for me at least because even though All Quiet is about fatherhood, I don't really think of it in that way.  And thanks to Giulia Bianchi for talking about it at MAST Bologna.

Read about All Quiet on the Home Front here:


Drool - Tony Fouhse



Oh and you can read all the endorsements from some really wonderful people here .

And All Quiet is really fantastic, both as a project and, thanks to Alejandro Acin, as a book. The more I talk about it, the more I read myself talking about it, the more fabulous it becomes. And the more fabulous it becomes, the more fabulous the wider body of work it belongs to becomes - and I mean that sincerely. And the more I believe that and say that, the more others believe it and say it. Which feeds back to me and elevates my self-belief. Which becomes virus like and infects other people - who then spread it on for me. Passion and enthusiasm is contagious. And Love is a bug.

It is really interesting to see how that process works and the extent to which there is an interplay between something of substance (the book in and of itself) and the promotion that works in the land of smoke and mirrors. The whole promotional element is endorphin-based propaganda, part of an imaginary world comparable to the social media feedback loops of likes and refresh pulls, with everything always super positive and happy and successful and self-referential within this strange self-enclosed world.

But, in the same way there is a flip side of infantile behaviour behind the liking buttons of social media (which really define the supposedly positive side of those likes) underneath every book campaign there is the flip side of hatred, insecurity, neurosis, resentment and grudge. Social media pre-order campaigns are like the rock that is all smooth and cultured on the surface. Roll it over and it's a festering lizard-brain world of vengeance and hatred and survival of the fittest.

I wonder if it wouldn't be more interesting focus on that sometime, to lay bare on the page your insecurity, inadequacy, resentment and hate. Because everybody, no matter how accomplished, has those inadequacies, those failings, those limitations, those setbacks that stick in the craw. Talk to anyone in photography and they'll have that dark side where their eyes go black and the voice enters a monotone where those secret lists of enemies, those accusations in others of careerism, arrogance, incompetence, lameness, venality, tightfistedness, cruelty and envy that inundate our darker moments.

It would be like the opposite of the refresh button or the like button. It would be a hate button, and that's why I'm not going to do it here. Because hatred never sells books. And look what hate has done to Twitter. We don't need hate.

So it's love that won, even if it's imaginary. Buy the book here. Or better still, press the red button and buy the book there.

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