How did we get here?
As I was enjoying the Christmas holiday with family, a revelation washed over me. My affinity for technology, once a healthy hobby, had devolved into a sick dependency and an addiction. This experience sparked some intense reflection into how I used to love getting my hands on the keyboard and getting online but now the internet is ubiquitous and ingrained into pretty much every aspect of my life. The joy had faded into an expectation and now, when I’m not connected, I find myself wondering what’s happening. I had to acknowledge that I’d fallen prey to FOMO.
I started to become more conscious of this over the days since and I started to see how much time I’d spent on some digital device looking at social media. But it was worse. After spending all day with my face in a screen, rather than have conversations over a meal I would thumb through Facebook and continue to evade the human connection. I started to look back on how many times someone would post something on Facebook or @ me on Twitter when we were in the same room.
How does it happen?
The root of the problem is that we are all, at our base roots, drug addicts. You may not drink. You may not smoke. You may avoid caffeine. But you’re human and therefore you’re an addict. There are some really great articles which explain this in deeper detail than I’ll cover here, but the fact is that we are all driven to seek satisfaction. With the internet, twitter, and texting we now have almost instant gratification of this desire to seek. We no longer have to leave a message on someone’s answering machine, wait for them to get home to listen to the message, and wait for a return call. Now you can just shoot a quick text. This increased level of instant gratification can create a dopamine induced loop. The dopamine starts you seeking, which leads to rewarding satisfaction, which sets us on another search. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text.
Well, now that I’ve realized how big this dependency has become, I have to do something about it. And being on an endless quest for knowledge and growth, I’ve devised a plan to not only break me from my obsession, but to use the opportunity to level up my skills in psychology and situational awareness.
Cutting the cord
The first step in my plan is to delete the social media applications from my phone. Not only will this help to my aim of breaking the compulsion to be connected, but also from the perspective of fewer distractions from the notifications associated and increased battery life on my smartphone. When I saw this tweet on the topic, I knew I was on the path to doing something right.
Filling the silence
As I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this endeavor, one that I admittedly expect to be quite challenging, I started forcing myself to slowly stop using the phone. When I become conscious that I’m surfing social media, I force myself to put the phone away and reinsert myself into real life. This has helped me to realize how I was getting the added benefit of escaping what was in front of me. Faced with this increased opportunity to engage people I have been enjoying more conversations where there used to be nothing but silence.
As with all things, one only takes from an experience what they put in. While this New Year’s resolution will certainly allow me to get closer with my friends and family, there is also a more nefarious method to my madness. In my continuing quest to improve my social engineering techniques, I intend to increase my use of various tactics during these random encounters with strangers. While these skills might be used for evil, my intent will be more to exercise my conversational techniques so that I might apply them in the field during penetration testing.
Using conversational signals, and techniques like projection, I’ll be working to learn more about how to profile people during random engagements, how to read them on the fly, and how to find the combination of conversational tactics that bring them to a place where I can extract a piece of data.
Today, I delete these apps from my phone. I’ll only be using social media from my laptop, when I’m online and connected. With every day that passes, I feel more and more like I’m living in a society prophesied in the movie Idiocracy. People are simultaneously becoming increasingly harder to deal with and decreasingly smart, and social media on demand only makes it worse. My intention is to learn more about people, learn more about myself, and generally become more present in the moments I have the privilege of experiencing as I navigate the choppy sea of life. Here’s to growth and adventure in 2018!