Making Sense of Self
in the post-information age
When smartphones and social media became a part of our lives, I think most of us thought the world was becoming more connected. We were told that the arrival of rapid digital communication, open online networks, and global connectivity would usher us into a golden age of human communication.
And while in a technological sense we are definitely more connected, on a deeper human level we've never been more disconnected.
rates of depression, social isolation, and suicide all rise, it's clear that more technological connectivity has not translated to deeper human connection (or understanding). While the studies show it to be true, you don't have be a scientist to see why.
Simply look at what fills the majority of our daily awareness. Look at what our mind consumes.
Narcissism runs rampant on social media. Bad actors pump misinformation into our digital veins. At the same time, brand marketers pay social media platforms for the right to sell us everywhere we go.
If that is our mind's usual diet,
Armed with different information from different sources, our dialogue with one another has had no choice but to polarize.
is it any wonder that we spend most of our daily lives feeling both unfulfilled, and disconnected?
While the story to date has been about the polarization of our beliefs, in my mind, the real story is that we have lost a deeper sense of connection to one another.
And of course, around all this, we are constantly being advertised to in pop-up ads and through digital influencers, as tech companies consuming our data and sell it to those who wish to sell us something more. And what are they ultimately paying for? They're paying for our attention. They're paying for the right to absorb our awareness.
Seemingly we'd all be so turned off by this that we'd chuck our phones in the trash and leave social media behind. But we see the opposite is happening. Our addictions to our phones and social media grow.
We're living in the Post-Information Age. This is a period in our civilization where information is so abundant that it becomes difficult to determine what is true. Seemingly we could just turn the smartphones off and go back to the way things were right?
Throw in our growing addiction to digital devices and it's not hard to und
While this has lead many to conclude that we have entered the Post-Truth Age, I disagree. I believe our search for truth is deepening and we're realizing that the usual ways of seeking it aren't going to do the trick.
But in the meantime, we're currently experiencing a sense-making crisis. On the most obvious level, we see this play out in the news media where different news outlets interpret the same political events in dramatically different ways. Everyone is seeing t
n essence, as our old ways of understanding our world (and credibility of the usual authorities declines) each of us now must figure out what's going on.
Usually when human beings encounter something confusing, they group together to solve the problem. They put their heads together to ensure they were seeing the problem from all the angles. Our ancestors performed this ritual around campfires and tribal councils. They sat face to face and together plotted a path forward with the best intelligence they had available.
Over the past few millennia, campfires and tribal councils gave way to town squares and national governments. As human populations, we had to create more sophisticated mechanisms for coordinating all our energy and comined intelligence.
But with the relatively recent arrival of the internet, digital technology, and online communities, the way we put our heads together has changed. Where before we knew everyone in our tribe, now we barely know our neighbors. Where before we sat eye to eye, now we engage with each other from afar. We post articles from our preferred news outlets on our digital doorsteps, and do battle with those who disagree with us in our social media feeds.
In the process, we're realizing just how polarized we are. We've retreated into our respective corners and true communication has ceased. Many of us conclude that the other side is ignorant. And many more are losing hope that there's any way to overcome these deepening divisions.
Regardless of which camp we fall in, I believe all of us are recognizing that something human--even something sacred--is getting lost in the modern shuffle.
Internet connectivity might be better than ever, but the quality of human connection is degrading. Messages travel faster but the full fidelity of human communication gets lost. Pixels just aren't people.
And we're social creatures!
Gone is the nuance and non-verbal communication that sets human dialogue that would allow us to truly understand the other person. Because we are no longer in each other's presence, and instead sending messages across digital expanses, we lose all the nuance and non-verbal communication. Disagreements deepen beyond repairand our opinion of the other degrades further.
Considering the current state of human communication, should we be so surprised that our mentla health i digital addictions grow while our mental health declines? We've traded real world community and connection for a digital version that can't really meet our needs as social beings and a socail species.
So why have we fallen into the trap?
And how do we get out of it?
a sense-making crisis
unverified information floods into our awareness through digital devices, it naturally becomes harder to know what is true and what is false.
the post-information age
The arrival of smartphones and social media put the world's information at our fingertips. In the process, this new technology has disrupted the way information is shared and distributed.
clinging to belief
With so much conflicting information, our mind tends to spin. And oftentimes the way we humans deal with this confusion and discomfort is to cling to our core beliefs. Whether they are right or wrong, it only matters that we have something we can hold onto. Something that feels constant amidst all that is in flux.
data and distraction.
Tech companies like Facebook, which purport to create online community, also profit off of keeping us engaged on their platforms while allowing misinformation to spread into our awareness.
We do not want big tech to or big government to police us so how do we clean up modern communication? How do we help the truth win?
Is there a singular truth?
digital addiction and
mental health crisis
With loneliness, depression, and suicide all on the rise, it's clear that we are feeling disconnected from one another. And as digital addictions grow, more of us are realizing we can't find what we're really looking for through our shiny pixelated screens.
immersioneer open session
know the Self
political correctness and stifled communication
A lot of our modern dialogue seems to break down around because we dont' feel we can say what we think. Or we can say what we think and risk being labeled.
We're a social species that feeds off of immediacy and yet we're increasingly absorbed by devices and digital communities that cannot give us what we truly desire.
Digital devices and social media have thrown us for such a loop precisely because they give us a certain kind of connection and an opportunity to be ourselves. Through social media we are given a platform to express who we are and what we believe. We even get to be "liked" for it.
I think a lot of things are happening simultaneously. And if we start talking about it now, we can get ahead of it. We can make technology serve humanity rather than the other way around.
the age of self-authorship is also the post-information, post-truth age.
This has set in motion a sense-making, meaning-making crisis. After all, what’s true?
So we’re all realizing the power we have to control our own narrative while the stories of how the world works around us are falling apart.
Not surprisingly, we’re seeing a lot of narcissism in the world. Social media has given people a digital lane in which to live their life, consume content (stories), and digital real estate to build their story /image.
No wonder we’re addicted to our phones. It gives us some sense of control--some psychological square footage--that we feel we control. Amidst so much growing complexity, social media has become a destination to share our perspective with the collective.
The confusion arises because everyone with access to an internet connection now has that same power. And this means we are inundated with all kinds of messages from all kinds of sources with varying degrees of credibility. And this makes getting all the information to line up quite hard.
It also makes withdrawing from the world more attractive. After all, when I can't understand or control what's happening "out there" why bother with it? Why not just focus on myself?
And here is where consumer culture and social media create a quite ingenious t
As I see it, this makes us withdraw further into ourselves. It shuts us away
But isolation means we lose real connection. And separateness leads to loneliness. Tech connectivity can’t delivery the deeper need, but now that we’re so isolated our attempts to reconnect go nowhere.
And in a time when nothing makes sense, we have to make sense of it ourselves.
I think a lot of things are happening simultaneously. And this convergence of events has created a new level of complexity in our human experience--and in human consciousness that we now have the privilege of sorting through together. This is the evolutionary challenge of the our current era or what I call The Age of Awareness.
Amidst this growing complexity, many of us are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. And despite being more technologically connected than ever before, we're also feeling more disconnected, isolated, and depressed.
I believe we all intuitively already understand why this is happening. It's just that wit so much momentum being technology, phones, and digital connection, we've lost contact with the more immediate kind of human connection that actually sustains us (and has seen our species to its current place atop the power hierarchy).
And I believe if we can dive underneath the outer complexity and start talking about our psychological lives more openly, we can find the answer
I feel like this complexity is inviting us to circle and remember how to communicate with honesty, integrity, and clarity. And I don't believe I'm the only feeling this. You feel me?
the age of self-authorship is also the post-information, post-truth age.
This has set in motion a sense-making, meaning-making crisis. After all, what’s true?
So we’re all realizing the power we have to control our own narrative. Thanks to social media, we can decide what we post and what people see.
Because we are all self-censoring, to some degree or another, we are becoming more aware of the division between the person we show the world and the human being we truly are. And this discrepancy, along with the social isolation technology has created through a loss of face-to-face, immediacy.
As I see it, our drift into digital delusion and the distance it has created between us are not proof that humanity is bad or wrong. Smartphones and social media have exposed something inherently human and amplified it across a network of screens and feeds. It's understanding what we're actually looking at htat's hard.
And what do we see?
We see individual human beings trying to live their best lives. The challenge is that we're chasing a thin version of it and we're doing it disconnected from each other.
Digital connection is costing us real connection. But now that we’ve isolated (often without knowing we have) our attempts to reconnect fail as we lose connection with the natural human experience.
And this disconnection is not just from each other or ourselves, but our natural world too. As we've moved into digital worlds, we've lapsed in our care for the natural environment. The natural environment that sustains our life.
Increasingly, this awareness grows among us that profound shifts are underway in our world. And if we are paying attention, we must ask ourselves what we can do to contribute to this unfolding transformation.
And right now, we’re largely using memes to move the collective mind where we want. And what is a meme exactly? Yep. It’s those little innocent harmless things we all share constantly. Basically, a meme is the smallest packet story that we can send in content. It’s the smallest thing that can most quickly and easily convey an idea, emotion, and feeling.
Naturally, in an age of mass confusion, the things that travel the fastest are the things that are small and simple and align with what we believe
Self awareness bordering on narcissism.
We fall into narcissism because we are starved for real-world connection and true community. Gone are the days are everyone in your town knowing your name. So now we seek it in vain through digital connection with people from afar. There’s nothing wrong with embracing digital tools to connect with those far away, but when it becomes the primary source of our connection, we begin to feel empty. Humanity needs to feel seen. And not by likes or heart icons, but by one another, face to face.
Of course, how did we get to this point? While a myriad of factors have converged to create our current situation, I believe the answer lies in generations of mass media conditioning that have driven us into behaviors that serve the interests of economic growth but at the expense of true human well-being.
For a long time, economic growth has been seen as the engine of human society. As the thinking goes, no economic growth, no jobs. No jobs, no money. No money, no food. No shelter.
But just to get our conversation going, my theory is that our disconnection began on the heels of World War II. Don't worry, we're not going to do a full history lesson here, so stick with me.
At the end of World War II, American industry was booming. We'd just helped win the war and in large part that victory was due to our economy sprung to life. w level of industrial capacity. But there wasn't really a war to fight anymore, so the majority of industry shifted over to producing for the civilian economy.
While consumer culture existed before World War II, it really found its footing in the post-war period. With so much industrial capacity to go around, companies needed to figure out how to get people to buy.
This was was when American consumer culture really kicked into high gear. After all, we had all this capacity and needed something to do with it. Fast forward a few decades and
Now the point of this is not to make consumer culture the enemy. It's simply to show where
Consumer culture has pushed us into isolation and convinced us that accruing things (and the money to buy those things) is the fastest track to fulfillment. While that might fill up corporate bottom lines (and the pockets of the 1%), our deeper human needs can’t be fed that way. We need to feel a connection to a broader whole and now we’re trying to reclaim it.
But on the road to reclaiming it, consumer culture has sold us the idea that The American Dream of home ownership and all the trappings of our private little kingdom is the key to happiness. In truth it’s become a kind of trap for us, one where the only barometer for having the good life is what we own—even if owning doesn’t make us any happier.
Our society is rushing towards the cliff because we have a fundamentally flawed understanding of what makes us happy—a false understanding that’s been conditioned into us for generations.
But increasingly an awareness grows, especially among the younger generations, that a profound shift in society's way of doing things must take place if we are to avert an avoidable disaster. And while the majority of our dialogue today have to do with systemic changes that must happen (i.e moving away from a carbon based economy and creating a more conscious form of capitalism), there is a corresponding need for a shift in consciousness at an individual level.
This is a central reason why I founded Immersioneer. Because this exploration is meant to be a shared one. And because I only know what I know. And because we're better togethe.r
battling for control of the narrative
As the modern media is proof, you tune into one news station, you get one version of reality. You tune into another, you get something else. And then we all do battle with the story we believe to be true.
amplified by screens
insulated by algorithms
The challenges we face today are technically nothing new. Humans have always battled to write the narrative. What is different now is that our competition takes place in a digital commons where algorithms can amplify or silence certain voices.
the social MEdia
many of us are currently "checking out" from the polarization because we find it off-putting. Rather than focus on things we can't control, we're focusing more attention on what we can control: ourselves. While consumer culture has long tapped into this self-authoring tendency we all share, social media now gives us a new canvas in which to project our sense of self onto the collective.
the attention economy
Meeting the world's great challenges would be a lot easier if our economy were not designed to absorb our attention and drive into unconscious kinds (and levels) of consumption.
If we're serious about meeting these modern challenges, then we must reclaim our awareness and direct it somewhere more productive.
the marketplace of MEaning
Consumer culture (and all the advertising behind it) feeds of this self-authoring tendency we all share. In the process it keeps us endlessly seeking fulfillment through acquiring things that will "complete" us. Intuitively, we all know this won't work, but we often have to fall into the trap repeated times until we seek deeper levels of fulfillment.
Social Media Narcissism =
Seeking More Connection
These days, Millennials are getting a lot of flack for our self-absorbed, narcissistic tendencies. And while that might be true, I believe this behavior points to our desire for deeper connection. It's simply that we're chasing a natural human desire down a false digital path.
The American Dream
Western culture celebrates the individual and The American Dream celebrates aspiration. Consumer culture splits the difference by endlessly telling us what we must aspire to in order to become our best selves. Of course,
seeing beyond polarization
These days the conversation seems to focus a lot on how crazy the "other" guy is. As it's become harder to make sense of rapid changes, judging the other has become the safest psychological move.
But true security can't come from perpetually battling an other. Instead it must come from embracing a new relationship toward the other.
A Social Species.
A Collective Intelligence.
Technology has thrown us for a curve because it's been framed up as "social" technology. But human beings are meant to be together. And being physically together is where we
True Self Discovery
self and Self
Most of us live our lives purely through the filter of our egoic self. the self we live our lives in and the Self that spiritual teachers and traditions speak of are not the same thing. Modern Western culture (and consumer culture condition us
remembering the Whole
anything that ignores the Whole and the interconnectedness of all things
The Millennial generation Whether it's the psychedelic renaissance, the growing popularity of festival culture, or the almost religous quality of modern electronic music, we are seeking a return to spiritual life and shared experience of the divine.
And this time without the religious hangover.
These days the conversation seems to focus a lot on how crazy the "other" guy is. As its become harder to make sense of rapid changes, polarization (and judgment) seems like the safest psychological move.
But true security can't come from hating an other, because you still exist with that other.
Love as the greatest form
of Human Intelligence
Our spiritual shyness is falling away right on time. The planet's ecological collapse demands a profound shift in human consciousness--one that remembers not just the interconnectedness of our world but it's inherent uncity.