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Doing my internet work at the ‘hub’ for start-ups that the Jerusalem Council has very kindly located right next door to my house is giving me a lot of food for thought.

When I first started going there, a couple of months’ back, there were already a few ‘regulars’ who seemed to have the whole start-up / internet entrepreneur thing sussed.

Their conversations were full of impressive-sounding strategies for how to use Twitter, and how to reach people by paying writers to pretend to be fake people using their products on Fakebook, and how to optimise opportunities via Amazon Associates etc etc

Despite myself, I was secretly impressed – and not so secretly thrown for a loop. I mean, they sounded so with-it and sorted, they were surely making millions already…

And me? Well, I’m still waiting for my ship to come in and my efforts to pay off.

Somewhere deep down, I started to think that maybe I had to start playing the game a whole lot more, if I really wanted to get somewhere online.

Maybe, I’d have to start investing a huge amount of effort in Twitter…Maybe, I’d have to hold my nose and start a Facebook account…Maybe, I’d have to waste huge chunks of time making stupid comments on other people’s posts to ‘maintain visibility’…

I’ll be honest: I started a Twitter account for JEMI; I started a Facebook page (purely business) for Talk to God. And after a couple of weeks, this is what I realised:

It’s all a crock!

God really doesn’t need me to waste my time trying to garner likes, retweets or comments in order to do something useful with my life.

Meanwhile, back at the hub, the wheels were starting to come off a lot of the bright, shiny ‘internet entrepreneurs’. They aren’t all going bonkers (yet…) but there are some definite signs of wear and tear on even the most bullish and optimistic ones.

As I watched them get more and more stressed, and angry, and less and less friendly and even plain nice, this is what I realised:

Being on the internet too much is literally driving people insane.

There’s many reasons for this.

1) It makes you waste a lot of time on things that appear to be useful, which are anything but.

Then, you get to the end of the day wondering where all that effort and investment went, and you have nothing to show for it.

2) It gives you a false sense of connection, that actually just leaves you feeling incredibly empty as soon as you power-off.

The first few weeks of doing things like Linked In, or writing articles for Ezine, I was thrilled to be back in the ‘real world’ again, and connecting to people. Then, I realised how lonely I felt after I’d sent another email monologue, or read through a few other people’s posts.

It was like trying to connect to a statue, or a ghost. There was an impression or illusion of a relationship there, but actually nothing underneath. I imagine regular users of Facebook must feel the emptiness in their real lives even more acutely.

3) It literally saps your strength and energy.

This is a whole big post for another time, but I could feel enormous differences in my mood and my energy levels when I was working on a computer that was connected to the internet, and when I wasn’t.

To put it simply, the electrical frequency that things like WiFi are operating on completely fry out the human electrical system that’s part of the miraculous way that God operates the human body. It’s like having all your circuits scrambled – it literally drains you of energy, changes your mood, and puts you into a type of hypnotic trance.

(BTW, this is also a big part of the reason why internet use is actually physically addictive, but I’ll talk about that another time.)

4) It blurs the line between real and unreal

More than anything else, watching the erstwhile internet entrepreneurs literally waste hours of their precious time pipe dreaming about the online businesses they were building, and the online audiences they are capturing, has taught me a very profound lesson about how the yetzer hara can use our power of imagination against us.

In internet make believe land:

  • You HAVE to have a dotcom for anyone to take you seriously…
  • Your website has to have a beta model, take 6 months to put together, and cost a minimum of $10k…
  • You have to be working Twitter and Facebook all day and all night – even creating a slew of fake people, to help you promote your product…

In reality:

  • No-one really gives a monkeys about how your email address ends.
  • You can do a very nice website (or 5) on DIY sites like Weebly for a few bucks’ a month, and no-one will ever know the difference.
  • Twitter and Facebook are a complete waste of time – everyone is churning it out, but no-one is really paying attention to what anyone else is saying.

Once I realised all this (and it took me a few good weeks to really see through the illusion), I stopped taking all the internet and social media stuff seriously. I got back in touch with my belief that God is running the world – even crazy places like pretend internet entrepreneur land – and I cut back my visits to the hub to maximum 2 or 3 times a week.

The last thing I did is take up knitting. It may not sound as impressive as sending tweets to 800 people every day, but it’s a heck of a lot more enjoyable and productive.

Last week, my husband decided he needed to get a phone that would let him send texts (but nothing else…) which sparked off a frantic round of ‘musical mobile phones’ in my family.

When the music stopped, I’d ended up with my daughter’s old phone, she got my husband’s old phone, and everyone was happy. Then that particular daughter started popping off to her room for ‘quiet’ time with alarming regularity.

I thought to myself: ‘Maybe she’s stressing out about the end of year play….Maybe she’s overwhelmed by all the bat mitzvah prep…Maybe one of her teachers is giving her a hard time…’ Then one morning, I went to wake her up – and she was already awake, playing on her new phone.

The penny dropped.

Turns out, there’s some really cool zoo game on my husband’s old (apparently not as kosher as it looked) phone, where you have to keep feeding the animals every day, or they die.

My kid was hooked on feeding the electronic gorillas.

Now, I’ve learned enough to know:

 

1) Confiscating the phone is only going to backfire

2) God is using the gorillas to show me something about me and my life

3) I HATE how slimy modern technology actually is.

 

I explained to my daughter that she was addicted to her phone, and she agreed.

“But if I don’t feed the gorillas, they’re going to die!” she told me plaintively.

In the meantime, she’d been so caught up in feeding the gorillas she’d forgotten to feed her real life hamster for a week, and it was looking a little peaky, to put it mildly. But I digress.

I left my daughter, and made my way back to the laptop, that’s been consuming a bit too much of my life this past week. As I plugged in the internet stick for the 4th time that day, my husband raised a quizzical eyebrow at me (I had huge internet addictions 8 years’ ago, and that’s one of the reasons I got it out of the house.)

“I have to check my emails,” I explained plaintively.

Then it hit me: I sounded just like my daughter, caught up in the fantasy land of feeding pretend gorillas.

Maybe the excuse was a bit more convincing, but I could see it was exactly the same stupid principle at play: If I don’t check my emails every few hours, all my online opportunities and connections are going to die….

But really? They’re not. And if that does actually happen, then they were probably as genuinely useful and real as my daughter’s gorillas.