MGU 227 | Digital Obesity

 

Technology has become so embedded in our lives that it has a part to play in almost everything we do each day. But this also means we have to deal with tons of data at all times, resulting in digital obesity. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen delve into the dangers of this state, including a huge amount of digital clutter, a constant feeling of not-enoughness, and the fear of missing out. They discuss how to solve data hoarding by explaining the right way to determine which things you should keep and let go of. Whitney and Jason also talk about how too much time with data may lead to multiple online identities and oversharing, which give birth to manipulation and inauthenticity if not managed well.

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Society’s Long (And Unaddressed) Battle Against Digital Obesity

This episode’s topic is something that I just familiarized myself with. When Whitney suggested this topic for this episode, I had an assumption. I’m going to own up to my assumption. When I saw this term, my mind immediately went to something completely opposite from what it is. I had to laugh at myself. As I was familiarizing myself with the topic for this episode which is digital obesity, before I read the research article so we can discuss it now. My mind went to that digital obesity is when you spend so much time on your devices, smartphone, computer, Apple TV, iPad, etc. That you’re so sedentary from sitting that you become clinically obese or overweight as a result of sitting and being on your devices in a sedentary state. That’s what I thought digital obesity meant, which I think is a reasonable assumption.

As I detailed on an episode not too long ago here on the show, I have gained weight during the last few months of lockdown, quarantine and COVID or whatever else we want to call this thing and I’m okay with it. When you sent me these articles with digital obesity, I’m like, “I’m going to learn about how being sedentary affects my weight gain,” and it’s absolutely not that. I think I deserved some kudos because that was a reasonable assumption. However, digital obesity is really interesting because, as I was reading this Whitney, I chose to look at my own behaviors and also the behaviors of other people I know which I’ll share anecdotally.

Before we jump in the actual definition of digital obesity, Urban Dictionary defines it like this. Being digitally obese means that you’re an information hoarder with a ferocious appetite for data. Digital obesity can be used to describe people who refuse to delete old or unwanted data in case they happen to need it in the future. The same can be said for people trying to fill 400-gigabyte hard drives with junk because the space is just “there.” Digital obesity also relates to software packages and apps that are needlessly large and overly complex.

It’s super interesting. There’s some interesting stuff in this article from NetSanity. There’s a great one from NetSanity and also from The Guardian. It talks about how it’s slowing us down. It says, “We’re in an endless lock-in at all you can eat big byte buffet and we’ve eaten the key. We’re becoming increasingly immobilized by our mobile selves screeching to a halt mid-stride, mid-sentence or mid-sleep to answer the seductive vibration and the ping of another digital missive. We are becoming increasingly crippled by the devices sitting in front of us at any given moment, paralyzed by the mere thought of losing power or losing our digital connections. More and more of us are quietly and invisibly suffocating under the sheer weight of multiple personas, accounts, passwords, profiles and screen devices. For some, our digital citizenship and our digital identity are crushing both physically and spiritually.”

It’s relatable because I mentioned a couple of anecdotes. I have a file that I keep and backups of that have all of my passwords and access keys. That is a long-ass list. If I go through the sheer number of social media accounts, bank accounts, thanks to you, I’m starting a new crypto account, one more thing to add to the list. It’s a long list of things I need to access. Beyond that, I didn’t even realize, as you and I bring up topics here, I don’t know if I want to use the word complicit. I don’t know if that’s appropriate for this context.

Every piece of information you put out online will likely be monitored, collected, connected, and refined into usable information. Click To Tweet

I find that whenever we research new things and we discover things like digital obesity, I like to turn the lens inward and be like, “Wow.” I have a three terabyte hard drive back there, that’s full on my shelf. The new MacBook that I got is one terabyte and that’s almost full. I have Dropbox. I have Google Drive. I have Google Storage. There’re five places, not to mention, I just went through my laptop bag and I have six flash drives. I’m like, “Holy shit.” I didn’t even realize how many places I have data, photos and music.

On the one hand, I take a lot of pride in keeping my bookshelf organized and not having too much clutter. If I take a really honest look, I have a shit ton of digital clutter. In reading these, I was like, “Damn.” It was that lightbulb moment of, “I think I need to do maybe a better job at managing or organizing this.” I don’t know what to do about it because I feel like these things are in so many places now. I’m curious, do you feel this way? Do you feel digitally bloated? I don’t know if obese is the right word. I’m in a little bit of shock now realizing how much data I have just strewn all over the place. It’s like when you get off of a roller coaster, you feel sick and you vomit everywhere. I feel like I have digital vomit all over my life and didn’t realize how much I had.

Digital vomit is a good term. For me, I have to examine it a bit more because I have been very drawn to technology for a long time. It’s been a huge part of most of my life. Growing up in this digital age so much was developing and it has been fascinating. You and I, Jason and many people within our age range have this interesting perspective of using the internet for the first time as it was evolving, using the smartphone for the first time or getting our first computer.

For me growing up, there was one computer in the household for a long time. It was my dad’s work computer and I was lucky to use it. It’s also interesting to think about my mom. I don’t remember my mom using my dad’s computer. I used it for fun and school. My sister used it for fun and school. Eventually, we got our own computers but unlike kids these days, a lot of them grow up with multiple computers. They get their own pretty young if not a smart device first. Most kids will get a smart device first. Statistically, I don’t know what that is but that is my assumption. The majority of children that live in homes that have the money to spend on these things will give their kids these devices and my experience of not having that is like if you grow up with something, you usually crave it.

For me specifically, not only do we not have more than one computer for a while but I didn’t have a microwave to this day. My parents don’t have a microwave. We’ve never had cable TV, although now we have all these subscription services so we might as well. Growing up, I yearned for a lot of that technology experience. I was very interested in it. I think a lot of kids my age were interested in technology. It was entertaining and it was also really helpful in productivity and efficiency. I was drawn to that plus I have been creative with video most of my life.

Getting a computer also was about editing videos. I remember when I was getting into video editing in my teens, I didn’t have my own computer and my dad’s computer wasn’t suitable for it. He had a PC. It had some basic things but I don’t think I ever used my dad’s computer for that. The technology at that time didn’t make it very easy to put a video into the computer. I was doing deck to deck or just editing as I went. As I was making things like short video projects, I would plan them out so they could edit as we went along, linear editing. Eventually, I started to learn how to use different equipment but that wasn’t even very accessible.

MGU 227 | Digital Obesity

Digital Obesity: The majority of children who live in homes with the money to spend on digital things will most likely give their kids these devices.

 

Smartphones drastically changed things like that. We take for granted how easy it is to take a photo but even remember, before smartphones, most of us were using these cameras. They didn’t have a ton of storage. You had to have special cords. It was a huge pain in the ass and I think this is part of it too, Jason. We’ve seen so much shift but it happened slowly enough that we could adapt to it as it went. Part of me examining all of this is because of all of those years in my life where I didn’t have those things, I still get very excited about technology. Now, even though I try not to be addicted to efficiency and to productivity, I still like to save time. I still like to organize my life in a way that makes it easier. I love using technology like software. I have a naturally learned interest in it. I get excited by it.

Examining all of those things within me makes it hard to notice these experiences that we have with technology in it. I wonder how much of that is intentional especially for younger generations there. It’s just part of their lives in a lot of ways. It’s part of fitting in. It’s part of being cool. It’s part of being connected. I think a lot of us have this habit of using technology as much and adding another thing. We’ve also overcome, most of us, the barrier to entry. For me, it’s like giving my email address away for something, no problem. Signing up for a new service, no problem. I have a password manager built into my computer, a couple of them so it’s no problem. I don’t have to remember the password. I just typed it in. It was saved on my computer. It’s good to go. You have your own system.

To your point, Jason, for security reasons, I’m taking some new steps. First of all, in the past, as many people did and some people still do, I have the same passwords for every account. My password manager alerted me, “You should change these because it makes it easier for someone to hack in.” I’ve been going through almost every single day and changing at least a few passwords a day, which is a daunting process. It’s shown me how many accounts I have and it’s like, “It’s annoying.”

Also, it turns out that I might need to go back again to those that I changed because I just read a great article about security, specifically, encouraging people to sign up for two-factor authorization on an app so not just using your text. This is a good piece of information I learned, which is a lot of people use two-factor authorization by sending a text to their phone. They type that number in that they got into the program to confirm that it’s them, their identity. Unfortunately, hackers have found a way to hack that. It leaves you fairly vulnerable. Using a program like Google Authenticator, I think it’s called, there’s a bunch of them and I’ll link to the article if you want to read more into this. That’s more secure. As I’m going through changing passwords, I’m also signing up for two-factor authorization just to make sure that the security is as good.

The other thing to your point, Jason, is when you look at all these accounts, you’re generally not using them that much. Sometimes you sign up for an account and never go back, which I think is dangerous because your data is just sitting in there and anyone can hack into it. As part of this conversation, I read another article about digital obesity. This one is an older article, which is fascinating to me because I think it was written in 2014. That’s a few years ago and yet we’re still facing this issue. This is on Fastcompany.com. One of the big points of the article is that every piece of information we put out, every picture, video, data location we share and connect to other people, is likely to be monitored, collected, connected and refined into usable information. This becomes perpetual global surveillance. Not only will we be obese with information but we will also be digitally naked, in other words, exposed.

I think that’s important for us too because of how easy and tempting it is to sign up for all these services and use all these tools, we give a lot away. For many years, I was one of those people who was like, “I have nothing to hide. I don’t care. Who cares if somebody gets access to this? The only thing I want to protect is my financial information. Otherwise, who cares?” The more I look into this stuff, Jason, the more I care and the more I think. I don’t know if I fully feel comfortable.

There’s also this mentality. Is it too late? Is it too late to protect our data? Is it all out there anyway? Are we already naked? Perhaps but I think things are continuing to change. As we just saw with Apple’s updated privacy settings in the new iOS, it’s greatly affecting platforms like Facebook that can’t track your data in quite the same way anymore. That, to me, is a signal that it’s not too late because if they don’t have access to this ongoing data they’re collecting about you then that disrupts their company. The fact that it disrupts their company is a signal that maybe it’s not too late to take control. I think this is part of it, not just in how much we’re using on day to day basis but how much we’re giving away in the long-term is a big part of this conversation.

Talking about this digital bloatedness, I referenced a couple of things anecdotally I wanted to share. One of them that I think falls under this umbrella is the number of unread emails, texts and voicemails. Also, depending on the platform, if you have a direct message capability just like Facebook Messenger or Instagram DMs, etc., there are a lot of inboxes and places for people to leave us messages. There were a couple of situations over the past few years that instantly come to mind. I’ll talk about my own process when it comes to digital bloatedness in terms of messaging.

Always try to undergo a media diet where you step away from all kinds of data so that you can disconnect and set boundaries. Click To Tweet

There’s a former colleague of ours, I was hanging out with her at the restaurant Au Lac here in downtown LA. We were having a conversation about music and just hanging out. She was showing me a song she had recorded on her phone. I caught a brief glimpse of the number total because, on her smartphone, the Gmail program displays the number of unread messages you have. I did a triple take. I said, “Can I see your phone again?” She smirked. She’s like, “Why?” I said, “Is that total right?” In her Google inbox, I’m not shaming her, I’m more like just surprised. It was over 12,000 unread messages. I’d never seen anything like that before. I said to her, “How do you feel about that?” She’s like, “It’s out of control at this point. I can’t do anything.” She had just given up at a certain point of going through 12,000 unread messages.

I was also hanging out with a mutual friend of ours and I joked with her, I was looking again. She’s like, “Can you look up something on my phone?” I looked at her phone. She had almost 900 unlistened to voicemails. I looked at her, I said, “Are you ever going to go through this?” She’s like, “I don’t know. Probably not.” It’s interesting for two reasons. How we prioritize what is important in our lives, whereas in these examples, going through 900 voicemails is not important to this person. Going through 12,000 unread emails is not important. At a certain point, you run out of storage. Whereas your phone or the system that holds your voicemails or Gmail, you have to upgrade to a larger storage plan. At a certain point, you have to buy more storage from Google.

It does end up costing you money in the long run because you have to upgrade to bigger storage. That’s a part of this digital obesity in this digital bloat that’s fascinating. I feel like I’ve done a much better job because I used to be hanging around that 900 to 1,000 unread emails in my inbox. Right now, it’s about 150. I’ve gone down to 10%-ish of what it used to be. Could I get it down to inbox zero? Yes. Is it a massive priority? No, because I feel comfortable with around 100 to 150 unread messages. That’s my comfort zone.

If we go to the physical world versus the digital world, if we see giant piles piling up in our house or a bunch of grime or dirt, we’re going to be like, “I got to address this at a certain point.” Somehow, many of us have adopted the same mentality when we have tens of thousands of unread messages like, “I should clean that up.” It’s more like, “Fuck it. I’ll just get more storage.” I think that’s interesting how we don’t treat digital clutter the same way we treat physical clutter.

At least, not yet. I think people are starting to realize how much of an impact it is and this is something that I go through phases of awareness myself. In fact, I was thinking. I need to add that to my daily to-do list to organize, delete and make it easier for me and create a system. I think most people don’t have a system. I have an email inbox that’s for my newsletters and I check it once a day but I only click on emails that I find important. That’s only a couple a day out of maybe twenty-plus that I get each day. It’s building and building.

MGU 227 | Digital Obesity

Digital Obesity: Sometimes, you sign up for an account and never go back. That is really dangerous because your data is just sitting there, and anyone can hack into it.

 

I remember years ago, I went through that entire inbox and did something with every email. That felt satisfying but then you have to stay up with it just like anything else. For a lot of people, it doesn’t feel urgent because they don’t see it in front of their face all the time. Maybe those numbers, they go numb to it and we just keep saying, “We’ll do it someday.” What we can do in the present moment is two things. One, we can go on these detoxes, media diet or whatever you want to call it where you step away from it all so that you can disconnect. You can set boundaries. You can choose not to take anything more until you deal with everything that you have. Also, moving forward, being very clear of not signing up for things and being intentional. In fact, that Fast Company article had a point that the question is not whether technology can do something, the more relevant question is should it do something? This idea of, “Do we need this or not? Can I have this?”

I think this is part of the challenge and a shift we will likely see simply from marketing. We’ve been given a lot of things for free. We have free trials. We have free versions of things and that makes the barrier to entry really easy. You and I have free resources on our website and the marketing idea is if you give them something for free then they’ll give you their email address. Some of you reading may have signed up for a free resource and you get our emails. If you like our emails, great. If you don’t, we don’t want you to have them and clutter.

Most newsletters go unread. You’re lucky to have a high open-rate on your email newsletters, which is bizarre and yet I can fully relate because I do the same thing. I sign up for newsletters. What happens is I keep thinking, “Maybe one day I’ll need this.” It’s like you’re hoarding all of this data just in case. Similar to when you’re getting rid of something physical, you need to get to a point where, “I haven’t used this. I just need to let it go.” I’m in this place now. Maybe it’s because it’s spring. I am intentional about not acquiring things that I’m not going to use.

I noticed, Jason, that I have a tendency to hoard things out of a scarcity mentality. This might tie into the conversation too. I have this old habit, which feels a bit bizarre to me of keeping things just in case I might need them one day and/or because I’m afraid I won’t get them again. I’ll use a little bit of it or I’ll use it every once in a while but I don’t want to not have it again. I’m pushing through that more intentionally by using what I have and saying, “It’s okay for me to use this. If I want it again. I can probably get it again.” If I can’t get it again, that’s fine. It’s okay. Something else will come along.

One thing is I’ve accumulated so much tea. I’m a big coffee drinker. I drink coffee every day but I don’t drink tea every day. Now, I’m forcing myself to drink tea every day because I’ve had so much expired tea. I’m like, “This is so wasteful.” From a financial, material, eco-friendly standpoint, all of this is waste, when there are people in the world that could really benefit from having this or wanted it and here I am hoarding it.

Digital is different because usually there’s an abundance of not an unlimited amount of things to go around. It still ties into that same idea of why are you accumulating all of this stuff where it might be weighing down on you in more ways than you recognize. If you sign up for a newsletter list, read the newsletter. If you don’t read the newsletter, use it as a cue that you don’t want it. Unsubscribe. You can use tools to archive the email so that way, if one day you want to go back and read them, fine. Let’s be honest. How many people do that? This is part of the inspiration for our program, The Consistency Code, because we recognize that people have plenty of resources and information.

Most of us have everything that we need but we’re not implementing it. I think this is also the reason that Marie Kondo is so popular because most people have some clutter in their life and have an emotional challenge reducing or eliminating that clutter. It takes guidance and accountability. It takes someone to say, “You’re good. We need to think more in the long-term.” That’s probably my biggest solution here. It’s like, “What are the long-term impacts of the way that we use digital technology and accumulate it?”

I want to go back to the point that you made about whether things are useful and drilling down into what that means on an individual level. The one part of it for me, Whitney is like you, I get very excited about digital technology. I get excited about innovation. I feel like I’m containing multitudes in the sense that I’ve waxed poetic about my love for manual transmission cars, vinyl records and very analog technology but I do get excited about certain digital tech too if it’s useful.

Some technology that is being created today to simplify our lives in some way is actually making them more complicated. Click To Tweet

Here’s what I mean. For years, I wanted an iPad. I was at the Wanderlust Festival. They had this competition where Tofurky was giving away an iPad and I won the iPad. I was like, “I finally got an iPad.” I have wanted an Apple Watch for years. Finally, you gave me your first-gen Apple Watch. It needed to be fixed. I got it fixed. I got a new screen and band. I used it for nine months and I was like, “This isn’t really adding value to my life.” I was so excited about the theory of having something like an iPad or an Apple Watch but for me, I realized that what I needed to accomplish via my laptop and my iPhone, the things that I needed to do, personally and professionally.

I didn’t need the iPad or the Apple watch for me to accomplish the things that I needed to do. I went down from four devices. I still have the Apple Watch, I just don’t use it. Usability-wise, I went down from 4 digital devices to 2. Do I miss the watch? Do I miss the iPad? I don’t. I feel like I’m able to accomplish everything I need with the setup and the interconnectivity between my laptop and my phone. That’s me. In this sense, I wonder, Whitney. On a pragmatic level of efficiency and usability, if there are just devices and tech being created that doesn’t necessarily make things more smooth or efficient or productive but they are they’re not solely to make money. There’s some utility there.

I want to give a tangential example here. I was talking to our friend Adam, who has been a great guest and friend on our show here. He talks a lot about digital minimalism. Adam and I were texting and he said, “I’m not going to use my Light Phone anymore.” A Light Phone, for context we’ve talked about in the past, is a very minimalist phone that’s out there that you can only call and make texts on. He said, “I’m not using it anymore.” I said, “Why?” He said, “The interconnectivity I need with Kora and with his partner Pam and other things, there’s no utility for me.”

Here you have a device that in theory, as a Light Phone, I’m not throwing the Light Phone under the rocks here but it’s marketed as a thing that’s going to simplify your life. The people I’ve talked to like Adam who have used the Light Phone said, “It hasn’t simplified my life.” It’s a thing that’s been created to reduce the usage of another device. Now I have two devices but the device that I got ala Light Phone doesn’t really make my life easier because I’m still using my smartphone. Now I have two phones. Is that really what we’re going for here? By getting more stuff to take the burden off the usage of other stuff but now we have just more stuff. It’s a bit antithetical to the intention of minimizing and simplifying. It sounds like the devices, Whitney, that are being created to simplify our lives in some ways is making them more complicated, which is fascinating to me.

That reminds me of how it feeds into this overall desire for more. That’s a huge issue. One of the biggest psychological challenges that people have, myself included, is not feeling good enough. That not enoughness can also stem to an increase in all sorts of things. In the Fast Company article, it talks about increasing the number of our friends. We increased notifications when we join new platforms. We get more news, music, movies, devices, to your point, and more connectivity. It leads us to be very distracted, unfocused and we still don’t feel any better. Our lives are not improving as much as we think that they might and the marketing is making us think. There’s also a great line in the article that says, “There’s already way too much information available. It’s way too tasty, too cheap and too rich.” That reminds me of something we’ve talked about several times on the show, which is the book, The Pleasure Trap, which I believe it’s been a while since I’ve read it and now, I want to go back and reread it.

I believe the book is mostly about food but it’s really about the way our brains work. How we are as human beings crave pleasure. We look for things that are tasty and that could be food or technology. It’s stimulating, in other words. It feels good. When it’s inexpensive, that means we don’t have to work very hard. If it’s free, even better. We don’t have to put any work into it. Rich, I believe is similar to tasty, as in rich means that it’s full of something. It gives us a rich amount of pleasure. It’s concentrated, in other words.

As human beings, we’re hardwired to look for things that require the least amount of effort but give us the most in return. Yet, all of this distracts us from the fact that we’re not even that satisfied. We use technology as coping mechanisms. We use all of this connection to get what we want deep down but we’re not really getting it and becomes surface level. I think that’s why we’re not satisfied and that’s why it’s important for us to reconsider all of this and change it. I think not enough people have the structure and the patience to change, Jason, because it does require such a huge shift.

We have subtly been moved into this world that we’ve experienced throughout our lifetimes, Jason, all the shifts that have happened with technology. We can remember what it’s like before we had a smartphone. In fact, that reminds me of a video I saw on TikTok speaking of technology. This person had commented, ” I missed life before smartphones.” It was an old video from the ‘90s or something. I sat there for a moment and thought, “What was life before smartphones?” The creepy thing for me is I can barely remember it because it’s such a huge part of our lives now.

MGU 227 | Digital Obesity

Digital Obesity: You have to purchase more storage once you run out of it, making too much data cost you money in the long run.

 

Remember what it was like to just go somewhere and not have that device in your hand for everything? Now, concerts are full of people holding up their phones to record them. The majority of people I believe, I don’t know the statistics but I would be willing to guess, who go to a concert or just do anything are using their phone to document it. I think one of our guest episodes said he would go on a run and bring his phone because he wanted to document his run. He wanted to show the other people what he was doing.

When you step back, does anybody care? Do they even have the time to look at your Instagram and your social feeds? The fact that they do have that time and interest in what somebody else is doing is just adding to more of this clutter and distraction. In a way, it makes me more glad that I’ve been reducing the amount of posting I do on social media, Jason. Not only is it distracting me from my life but it’s encouraging other people to be distracted from their lives. As we have been reevaluating you and I combined a lot of the work that each of us has done over the years is promoting products. People will buy more products to try to fill up the void of emptiness. This perceived the need that they have when there might not be a need. The void won’t be filled by these things. It’s a big responsibility as a content creator to realize the role that I’ve been playing in that and reconsider how I’m participating in the system.

Going back to what you said, which I think is so important about this desire to hoard, it’s an offshoot of this feeling of not-enoughness. I have the same thing. I know I’ve mentioned this in a previous episode but I have to just laugh at myself about it. I’m going to the bathroom and I’m on my toilet. I’m looking at my cabinet that has all the stuff. How much of that stuff do I use? I probably use ten products consistently, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash. Yet I have this shelving system full of all these alpha-hydroxy, citric acid, face peel, this and that exfoliate your butthole. Why am I keeping it? I’m keeping it because on some level it’s made me feel important. I got that for free. Someone gave me that thing.

As an example, I was going through my knife drawer too. I have this beautiful cleaver. I got this cleaver years ago in a swag bag when I did the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival. That was eight years ago. It’s a gorgeous cleaver. Have I used it once in eight years? No. What is the utility in me keeping a cleaver, nice as it is, for eight years? Why do I keep it? Because it’s some ego validation of “You were the first vegan chef in history to present at Pebble Beach. You should keep that because maybe you’ll be old one day, look back on it and go, ‘I was the first vegan chef in history at Pebble Beach. Look, I’ve got this cleaver I’ve never used in 45 years.'” It’s ego. You’re important, Jason. Someone thought you were important enough to invite you to this thing and give you this expensive cleaver even though you’ve never used it.

I say this because I’m also feeling you, Whitney. Even if it’s painful emotionally and I’m sure that it will be. I have this idea of letting go of these things that I don’t even use, that I’m keeping around because they make me feel important. Some facial exfoliator and a cleaver I’ve never used is going to make me feel like a better person. Some part of me believes so that’s why I’ve kept it. As we’re breaking this down, I’m realizing like, “Why am I keeping this stuff? Someone else can use this.” Hoarding at the core, I don’t know if it’s the utility of it or as much as it is like, “I feel safe, secure, important and validated.” I wonder how much other stuff I’m holding on to for those reasons? It’s probably a shit ton or a scary amount.

I think this is why minimalism is so appealing when you get to this realization. I get excited to travel and it’s been road trips. The most pleasurable elements are two things especially driving cross country. One, I recognized on the 2020 cross country drive that I barely used my computer for 9 or 10 days that I was on that trip. I barely used my phone because I was driving at least eight hours a day. I would get somewhere and be exhausted. I was only doing the work that I truly needed to do that was time-sensitive. I recognize that it did not require that much time. Plus, I have a small car relatively so I didn’t have room for a lot of stuff. I only brought the stuff that I needed and was going to use.

Even then, which is something I recognize on practically every single trip I take, when I feel like I’m bringing minimal amounts of items, there’s still stuff that I bring that I never use. I’m fascinated every single time. I try to like it. I try to think “This trip, I’m only going to pack what I’m going to use,” but there’s always something that I bring just in case. That’s because a lot of us have fear based on trauma usually or somebody else’s trauma of going on a trip and needing something that they didn’t have and you think, “Next time, I’m going to be prepared. I’m going to bring that thing.” We’re always rolling the dice. It could be some clothes.

On my last cross-country trip, Leanne, who went on the trip with me, had an unexpected snowstorm at the beginning of September 2020. We never saw that coming and it got to below 30, I think. We didn’t have the clothes. We weren’t prepared for that. I think I brought a hat but I didn’t have gloves. I didn’t have a heavy jacket and that was frustrating. The next time I plan a trip, I’m going to do my best to anticipate but probably I’m going to think, “I don’t want to be stuck in that situation again. I’m going to bring a coat.” Knowing my luck, there’ll be no need for it. That’s part of what’s tricky. This is what I mean by that what-if scenario that we’re constantly facing and it’s the scarcity.

The truth is, Jason, if I wanted to, I could have gone to the store and bought something and I didn’t need that stuff. It was temporary discomfort. In most cases, even on a trip, it might be an inconvenience but you could just go buy whatever you need on the trip. Plenty of people do that and the same thing is true in general. Once I may get through all the tea I have, there might be this moment of, “I don’t have tea. What if I need tea? What if I want tea?” I’ll just go buy more. It’s not that big of a deal but I’ve made it a big deal in my head.

With a near-unlimited amount of data to go around, people accumulate so much that it starts to weigh them down without actually realizing it. Click To Tweet

This also leads me to something that I was reading in The Guardian article. In our supersize digital world, they have engineered a growing plethora of options, a curse that we seem incapable of casting off for fear of not being connected. This idea of fear is tied into this scarcity mentality like I won’t have what I need. I won’t be connected to the right people. I’m going to miss out on something because I didn’t do X, Y and Z. That messes with our minds. I don’t think you read this exact word or maybe this was in the other article because the other article quoted this. I’m going to say it again just to emphasize this one line that more and more of us are quietly and invisibly suffocating under the sheer weight of multiple personas, accounts, passwords, profiles and screen devices.

For some, digital citizenship is crushing both physically and spiritually. I love this visual of suffocating because it’s incredibly unpleasant. I love the visual of the weight of all the accounts, passwords, profiles, devices, all these things that we’ve talked about. I love the term digital citizenship because it basically says in order to be part of something, to be a citizen in this current world, we sacrifice a lot. We’re so used to it that we don’t realize how much it’s crushing us, we’re numb to it or we’re just not aware of it. We’re not paying attention because we believe that all the things that we get from this connection are worth being crushed physically and spiritually.

I also believe deep down a lot of the mental health challenges we have are related to this. All these people walking around scratching their heads. Why am I unhappy? Why am I depressed? Why am I anxious? Why am I scared? Most people are going to technology to figure it out versus recognizing the technology could be the root of the whole issue. In my life, technology is beneficial. My whole career is based on technology. It doesn’t seem like there’s a single chance, Jason, that we’re going to go back and give up all this technology that we have now unless we want to give it all up entirely and be citizens elsewhere.

I believe that there still are places in the world without access to technology, not using or choosing not to. I’m visualizing this one island that I know of that missionaries will try to go to. It’s incredibly dangerous to think because they’re still using bows and arrows and all of that. I have to look it up. Do you know what I’m talking about, Jason? Missionaries try to go to this island and are often killed because they’re threatened by the outside world. They’re disconnected so nobody can reach these people. It sounds barbaric or something but it’s cool on some level. There’s a society of people living very differently from you and me, Jason.

There are people that don’t have access to technology because of money or the internet’s not fully built there. Yet, there are people that are on a mission and Mark Zuckerberg is one of them, to give the entire world access to the internet. Why? Because he sees more opportunities there. Statistically, there are over seven billion people on the planet and at least four billion of them are on social media. I think that’s the right term. I can double-check this but I use that in a presentation. There are still billions of people that don’t use social media. For what reason? I don’t know. Is it their age? Is it their financial situation? Is it their belief systems? Is it where they live?

Also, statistically, every fifteen seconds people are signing up for social media. As of 2020, there were 7.81 billion people and more than four billion people around the world use social media every month, with an average of nearly two million new users joining every day. I don’t think there’s any sign of stopping. The trend that’s evolving and continues to build, Jason, is people recognizing that something needs to shift and they need to be mindful of their well-being.

On the one hand, when you quote those statistics, it seems less than I would have anticipated in terms of the sheer number of people that are using social media but also seems gargantuan when you consider four billion people. It’s less than I would have thought but at the same time feels massive. The thing about digital identity that flashed for me is almost like an alias or an alternate persona. As an example, if you take someone like David Bowie, he had this persona of Ziggy Stardust on stage when he was performing and doing his records. He was this asexual, androgynous alien from outer space that came to earth to play rock and roll music. He had Ziggy Stardust but you had David Jones, the person, you have the persona, the alias, the caricature and you have the human underneath the character.

In many ways, I feel like what we have done and continue to do on social media is create these aliases, alternate personalities, stage handles. How many times have we, you and I, Whitney, met someone that we had an idea of who we thought they were from social media based on these alternate personalities, this public-facing persona they’d created? We meet them and it’s like, “You aren’t how I thought you were at all.” I think a lot of people, not everyone, are curating so carefully these alternate personas, which are not separate from them. I think what we project on social media or on the world stage of digital technology is a glimpse into parts of who we are. It’s often exaggerated. It’s often enhanced filters, lighting, angles and manipulation of their persona. You then meet them in real life and it’s like, “Shit, you’re not how I thought you would be,” whether that’s their personality or physically how they look without the filter, without the manipulation, lighting and angles. There have been many times I’m like, “Damn.” I had to take a moment. This is not how I thought this person would be. Is this dangerous? Potentially.

MGU 227 | Digital Obesity

Digital Obesity: Some devices don’t necessarily make things smoother, more efficient, or more productive. They’re just there.

 

On a massive level of psychology, you talk about the mental health issues, about how much creating these alternate personas, what strain that’s having on us. Whether or not we feel we need to constantly live up to that externalized persona we’ve created and the pressure to live up to that. Maybe we just want to show up to our podcast with messy hair, BO and a tank top I haven’t washed in two weeks. Fuck it. On some level, Whitney, I don’t know that it will happen and I’ve said this before. In my heart, I don’t know.

Whatever happens next in this chapter of humanity, I would love to say this for myself and all others. If we could just show up, maybe not with the BO part but the shirt we haven’t washed in a few days, the messy hair and be like, “Fuck it, here I am.” I’m messy. I’m human. I’m complicated and I don’t give a shit about dressing up for you. I don’t know that it will happen. I think the pressure to keep up with the Joneses and have these manufactured alternate personas is way too heavy for a lot of people but I’d like to see it.

I’d like to see less perfectionism and more realness. Will it happen on a mass level? Who knows? To your point, this is contributing to a lot of mental health issues. It’s the constant pressure to live up to these alternative digital identities we’ve created for ourselves. With that being said, as I finish my tea, if you want to give me any of your tea, Whitney, I’m always open to receiving more tea from you.

Will you use it? I hesitate to ever give you anything, Jason because you are known for not using thins. You are known for collecting things that expire in the back of your cabinets and refrigerator. That’s a Jason Wrobel characteristic as of late. I will say one tea company that I want to shout out and we talked about very briefly on the show and I have it now. It’s this lovely hibiscus tea. We are trying to shout out more brands at the end of our episodes now. Jason has tried this too and the one that I have is an unsweetened caffeine-free hibiscus tea with no artificial flavors or colors.

We met the woman that makes this at Clubhouse. She is a lovely human being. She calls this a one-of-a-kind drinking experience that she masterfully curated using indigenous African traditional recipes. The nutrition benefits of hibiscus coupled with the exhilarating nature of this tea make it a must-have beverage for everyone. It doesn’t say what the nutritional benefits are. Do you know off the top of your head, Jason?

I believe hibiscus is high in vitamin C.

From the facts, it does have 4 mg of vitamin C, 40 mg of calcium and some iron in it. This is hibiscus plus ginger, pineapple juice, lemon juice and cloves. This company is based in Virginia. If you want to support a small female-owned and operated company with a passion for a traditional recipe, I highly recommend this because the woman that makes this is just a delightful human being.

My product shout-out is something that I’ve been using for a few months now. I’m a big fan of using supplements. One of our very first episodes was about supplementation, why we think they are important, why getting your blood panels tested and all of that to optimize your health. Supplement-wise, one of my favorite companies is a brand called Cymbiotika. I’ve been taking their D3, B supplement and their Omegas. They also have one for brain health and mood. I just added this on my cart because I was on their website and went, “This looks interesting.” It’s an Organic Longevity Mushroom formula. I’m a huge fan of medicinal mushrooms for things like immunity, focus, cognition, supporting liver health and viral defense.

It contains organic sunflower lecithin, coconut glycerin, sprouted almond butter, King Trumpet, Turkey Tail, Antrodia, Maitake, Reishi and it also has organic green tea extract, vitamin E, D, vanilla extract and cacao. It’s a chocolate syrup with all these medicinal mushrooms. We joked about doing a mukbang here. It’s mushroom-infused chocolate syrup. I do a tablespoon of this every day and here’s another thing. I’ve made pancake and waffles and instead of maple syrup, I will drizzle the medical mushroom chocolate on top of the waffles and it’s crazy. It feels so good.

I will say that you’ve mentioned Cymbiotika three times before now. It’s the fourth time you’ve mentioned this brand. You truly do love them, Jason. I don’t know if I’ve ever tried their products. I didn’t know how to spell it properly. The bottle is incredible. What a great label and the fact that it’s a chocolate fudge syrup, I think is incredibly unique. I will say another shout-out that I don’t have as a visual that I just bought at Whole Foods. It’s Califia. They have oat milk infused with mushrooms and whether that’s just to be trendy, I don’t know but it is quite lovely. I too believe in the power of mushrooms. I do think that getting them from a source like Cymbiotika or Four Sigmatic. We love them. We’ve talked about them before.

What you project on social media is a glimpse into parts of who you are but often exaggerated. Click To Tweet

I like Host Defense which is Paul Stamets’ company. He is regarded as the godfather of modern mycelial research in terms of how mushrooms can benefit the human body but also remediate toxicity in the soil and the waterways. I’ve taken his immune defense formula from Host Defense. I’ve never really used Host Defense to make tonics. The other brand that I like to make tonics with is a brand called Jing Herbs. Jing Herbs and George Lamoureux have some awesome medicinal mushrooms. With that, I wanted to set aside some time to try and consolidate all of the stuff I have floating around in the digital universe. I don’t have a plan yet for my digital bloatedness. I don’t want to call it digital obesity. I feel digitally bloated.

Do you know what that makes me think of? The times that you came home and found that Lynx got into the cabinet. Can you share the story of how bloated Lynx got? What did he get into? There is one time in particular where his body completely blew up after getting into something in the cabinet.

I don’t know what it was this particular time. Years ago, I learned the hard way that you should never trust tabby cats because they somehow seem to be particularly more devious than other breeds of cat. I should know this by now. I didn’t install any kind of locking mechanisms on my cabinets and Lynx would pry open the cabinets in my kitchen, find the chocolate and eat the fucking chocolate. Chocolate is not a great idea for cats or dogs. Apparently, it’s worst for dogs but not a great idea for cats. This fool would figure out a way to get the chocolate in the back of the cabinet, gorge himself on it and then I would come home to find a lethargic, bloated tabby cat surrounded by chocolate shards on my kitchen floor.

This started at my old place, Whitney. I had to install childproof locks on my kitchen cabinets because this fool would figure out how to open every single one. Now, I have a strategic plan to limit Lynx and the other cat. It hasn’t happened in a while, however, the current challenge I have is if I have an avocado and I turn my back for three seconds, his brother, the orange viper, Julius Bartholomew Wrobel will strike like a viper. Literally, I cannot leave even avocado skin. He’ll run full speed, duck under the guest bed in my house and I have to move the entire bed away from the wall to get the avocado out of the gaping maw of the orange viper.

Welcome to being a cat dad. BTS of cat dad-dom. Do you, dear readers, have any crazy shit that your animals do? We’d love to hear about it. We could say, “Email us about digital obesity, digital bloatedness or bloated animals in your cabinets. That could be fun too. If you want to email us, our email address is [email protected]. Hit us an email. Shoot us a DM on Instagram and Facebook, whatever you want. Let’s talk about our animals.

We got to do an episode all about our animals. We’ve never dedicated a whole episode about our animals. We’re going to do that next time. We’re going to have a whole episode about the folly, fun and frivolity of our crazy wonderful animals. We’ll do that in the future. Also, if you dear readers have any suggestions for future topics, we’re always open to that. Hit us up, down, sideways or any way you want to hit us. We’ll be back soon with another episode. Until then, we love you and appreciate you. Thanks for your support. Catch you soon!

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