I guess I’m just going to have to find a technology-free zone, and go live there. So, it’s back to the 1970’s then.
25 February 2015
Weapons Of Mass Distraction
When I gave away my television fifteen years ago, I never imagined that I would one day have to retread the same ground, with what has inadvertently turned into its successor - the computer.
At that time I had an old, slow, desktop version, which I barely used; and, hard to believe given my present cavalier use of the internet, back then I was loathe to surf the web (barely sticking a toe in), and wouldn’t shop, bank, or do anything on-line which involved money, not trusting at all the safety of such procedures. I was still choosing to use dial-up when broadband became widespread, and had to be coaxed, cajoled, and coddled into upgrading, which happened only when I bought my first laptop five years ago, and despite my attempts to remain a dial-up dinosaur.
So attached was I to my t.v. that I can still vividly remember the circumstances of its final relinquishment, including the last thing I watched (the Williams sisters contesting the women’s Wimbledon final). And what is also indelibly imprinted in my mind is the aftermath of our separation.
As the decision to get rid of it had taken months, maybe even a year or more, to reach (involving countless failed attempts to control my compulsive viewing, and deny or minimise the suggestion of it causing me a problem), it shouldn’t be a surprise to find that I felt quite bereft, and lost - though this all occurred ten years before I found out about my autism, and that, as such, attachment to things is an innate part of my being.
Therefore, not only was I mourning the loss of the activity itself and what it did for me (helped me to lose myself, and avoid dealing with reality - much like alcohol, and food, for which it had inadvertently become a replacement after I stopped drinking, and compulsively overeating), but also the object.
So, here I was, only three years later, discarding what had been one of my most prized possessions. The question was what was I going to do with myself now that my primary source of entertainment, distraction, and information had gone? How would I live without my weekly dose of Buffy? How would I know what was going on in the world (having also developed a compulsion for reading the teletext pages)? How would I fill my time, not to mention the physical space which the set had occupied?
I did what any self-respecting distractible, executive functioning-challenged person would do - I started using my much-maligned, and under-used, computer to read up on what was happening in the final series of Buffy, and to check on other things of major importance (like the sports news). Additionally, I found something else to replace it - the local library, and its endless bounty of books in which to lose myself. Oh dear.
All of which turned out to be merely the entree, an appetiser to the compulsion which would once more escalate with the purchase of my first laptop (with integrated dvd drive, and large screen - specifically chosen in order to recreate, as much as possible, the experience of viewing films on television; plus my introduction to the world of broadband, and instant internet access); my first Apple product (an iPod Touch, on which I initially discovered the world of on-line book reading via the iBooks app); and the failed experiment of the Kindle (now permanently removed from my life, with no hope of a reprieve. *Sigh*).
As to the gaping physical hole which the television had left in my home, that I did not immediately fill (bloody typical). For the remainder of that day, and continuing on for a week or maybe more, everything remained exactly as it was, except for the rather large space where the shrine to moving pictures had dwelled. And there I would sit, gazing into the void, imagining my t.v. and the noise it used to make when I switched the on/off button - a solidly reassuring “thtunk” sort of sound. I can still hear it now…
Fast forward to the present, and imagine my dismay to find myself once more embroiled in obessive/compulsive technological torture; and to discover that, ever since I purchased my first laptop and launched myself onto the internet, I have been unwittingly attempting to replace the television, using it primarily as a source of entertainment, and a place in which to lose myself.
Despite choosing to buy a laptop with an integrated dvd drive, and the biggest screen I could find specifically for the purpose of film-watching, it never once occurred to me what I was doing. Until the most recent manifestation of my compulsion: a hard-drive filled with over two hundred films, for my instant-access viewing pleasure - like locking me in a sweet shop, and expecting me not to eat everything. Dumb.
And a fortnight is all it took for what was meant to be a thoughtful gesture on the part of my friend, to be revealed to be yet another error in judgement a la the Kindle. Actually, it took two days for my behaviour to become apparent (sitting and watching as many films in a row as I could fit into the day, whilst everything else got forgotten), but we were trying to give me the benefit of the doubt, holding onto the hope that the novelty would wear off, and I would settle down and learn to manage it. That’s what I kept hoping would happen with the television. It never did.
Therefore, after only two weeks, I had to relinquish the hard-drive full of films to my friend, for her to wipe it clean and send it back to me… empty: to be used for something productive. Bugger. *Deep sigh*. I even checked it in the forlorn hope that perhaps she had left a few on there, by error or design, but she hadn’t. The only evidence remaining was the title ‘Lisa’s Films’, sitting there on the desktop, taunting me with the memory of what had been.
So, having diced with yet another weapon of distraction, I can only surmise that if God had intended for me to spend large amounts of time on the computer, I would have been born a technogeek - which I positively am not. On the other hand, my autistic friend is. She can spend hours engrossed in playing, and sorting out difficulties, with technology. She loves it when it develops a problem, so she can spend time sorting it out. Yet she doesn’t get distracted, like I do. On the contrary, she’s in her element, happy as a pig in a truffle field. Her interactions with technology are creative: hence, she doesn’t lose herself on here, but rather connects with the part of herself which is technologically-minded.
Not so with me. When I try to play I get lost, bored, and end up trundling off to the internet to try to reignite my synapses - which is my idea of playing on the computer, and is kind of the techno version of mall shopping: there’s a whole lot of consumption goes on, but nothing creative happening. How, in the name of Santa’s socks, does one play with a computer? It simply doesn’t compute for me.
I’ve also realised that it’s not just that technology makes me anxious, but it just bores the arse off me. I’ve tried to get excited about it; to do what my friend has suggested and play with it; to basically copy her; but it just isn’t happening. The only thing that excites me is surfing the internet (which is not good for me), and typing up my writing (which I happen to be good at, fortunately love doing, and which isn’t difficult to do on here).
Where I connect with my creative self is in writing, art, and, in a different form, yoga (where I create calm, harmony, and a sense of order, in my body, mind, and spirit - well, that’s the theory anyway, yoga being about the union of the whole. Can’t say I’ve quite mastered the art yet… but I have fun trying). And even with these things I’ve found it difficult to embrace the concept of playing, but I understand how it can be done.
However, to my friend the idea of yoga is as tedious as watching paint dry - the moment I even mention the subject, a fixed smile settles on her face (almost as if rigour mortis has set in), and her eyes glaze over. Exactly as I do with computers. See, it’s all a matter of personality: we were not all meant to like, or be good at, the same things.
So I’m having to adjust my perception of the purpose of my computer, and alter the way I use it accordingly. Which, for me, means it’s primarily a tool for my writing, a means of connecting with other people (which I do very little of), a source of shopping, and a way to play my Kundalini yoga dvds (Maya Fiennes - ‘Detox and De-stress’, and the series ‘A Journey Through The Chakras’).
I’ve realised that it’s a bit like maths - I can do enough basic maths to serve my daily needs, and that’s enough. I’ve never found a need for logarithms and the like, nor a burning desire to try to master them. Yet with my computer I persist in the belief that I’m meant to understand and be able to utilise every app and function, of which I have no need, rather than accept that, like maths, I have enough basic skills for my purpose, and that my use of it is meant to be limited: if it wasn’t I’d have no time to write, paint, or do yoga. As it is I often have no time to do those things anyway because I’ve got caught up on the web. Never was there a more aptly-named instrument.
"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.
"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."
From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama
"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."