It’s 2:30 A.M. and although you have an early class in the morning, you’re lying in bed beneath the stark glare of your phone’s screen as you scroll and scroll through an endless feed of media. Your thumb and your eyes are growing weary. Just as you begin to power down, you convince yourself that it won’t hurt to check one more app before calling it a night.
Sound familiar? It’s a situation in which I find myself more often than I would like to admit. Within recent years, my friends and I have jokingly referred to our media habits as addictions, but a 2013 article from the Huffington Post titled “This Is How the Internet Is Rewiring Your Brain” reveals that this comparison is more than just a metaphor, reporting that MRI scans have revealed similarities between the brains of compulsive Internet users and drug addicts.
Fascinated with this finding, I spiraled into tunnel of research, stumbling upon the attached image along the way. This photo, in which an individual presses a syringe against their forearm filled with social media logos, poignantly presents the Internet addiction referred to by the above cited article and connects to several of this week’s readings. Behind this troubling scene are emblazoned the emblems of several other companies.
Although simple in design, in drawing a parallel between the Internet and drugs, it forces the viewer to question their own engagement with the digital world while simultaneously highlighting another problem with the web discussed by the Huffington Post: its destructive capabilities. While it is common knowledge that illegal drugs both physically and psychologically harm users, by replacing these toxins with familiar media brands this image suggests that social media poisons members in similar ways. The aforementioned report warns that an excess of these applications can cause mental damage in the form of “Facebook depression” and can even result in physical injuries amongst troubled teens by providing them an outlet of encouragement for self-harm.
This picture’s background is equally relevant to this week’s readings as it captures in a visual form the hyper attention to which both Carr and Hayles refer. Because the logos are presented on a slant with some appearing to continue off of the screen, the image evokes movement–that never-ending scroll of data to which I have alluded. Despite being surrounded by this constant feed, the individual in the photo requires an injection of even more media to fuel their addiction. This fact and the presence of many different applications hint at the media hopping described by Carr and the search for stimulation mentioned by Hayles, both as evidence of humans’ cognitive shift from deep to hyper attention.
Finally, this image visually demonstrates this week’s readings because it can also be viewed as depicting the Internet in a positive light, a fact which both the Huffington Post and Hayles conclude. Illegal drugs are not the only things injected in this manner. Rather, some medications, such as insulin, are taken this way. Thus, this photo seems to get at the idea that when used properly, these resources can be helpful. For example, as Hayles realizes, social media can be useful in educational settings.