Seven Deadly Sites

I read a cool article that compared different social media sites to the seven deadly sins (so I guess in a way, the author was saying that the Internet was hell?), but I found that some of them weren’t totally accurate (at least not for me), so I reworked the list. Here’s the original:

Lust = Tinder (It’s some kind of dating site, but I’ve never used it.)
Gluttony = Instagram (Because people post pictures of food.)
Greed = LinkedIn (More money, more jobs, more problems.)
Sloth = Netflix (It’s not social media, but the comparison is accurate.)
Wrath = Twitter (Oh, so many heated arguments about nothing!)
Envy = Pinterest (Because people post so many perfect-looking projects.)
Pride = Medium (I’ve never heard of it.) or Facebook (People posting about themselves all the time.)

Here are mine, but they’re not strictly social media:

Lust = 4chan or porn sites (Seems like those are the granddaddy of lustful temptation, not necessarily Tinder.)
Gluttony = Pinterest (I’m not on Instagram, so I see more food and recipes on Pinterest.)
Greed = Tumblr (I follow a lot of notebook and journaling blogs, and I want to buy everything I see on there.) or Amazon (for obvious reasons)
Sloth = YouTube (I watch more YouTube than Netflix, and it’s so easy to say “just one more video… it’s only 3 minutes!”)
Wrath = CNN.com or any news site (The world has so many problems that it makes me angry.)
Envy = Blessed Is She (Ironically an uplifting Catholic site, but it makes me envious because the site features those who are much better writers than me.)
Pride = WordPress (I’ve debated many times about whether I should shut down my blog because I’m trying to figure out why I’m posting. To show off or because I honestly love writing? This is my main Internet home, so in a way it’s my Facebook—I don’t think I could ever give it up.)

What are your seven deadly sites?

Am I Driving My Car, or Is It Driving Me?

This post is more or less a Luddite’s rant about new technology. So here goes. 🙂 I was forced to get a new car when my old one tragically passed away in an accident this past June. I’ve always been nervous about driving a new car or someone else’s car because… what if I crash it? What if I can’t adjust the seat properly? Am I responsible enough to have a brand new car? Why are you trusting me to drive your car? My name isn’t on your insurance! (And so on and so forth.)

Anyway, I got a Chevrolet Cruze and the best things about it are that it (a) gets really good gas mileage, (2) is my favorite color, and (3) has an antenna that reminds me of a fish’s fin. The worst thing about it is that it’s more or less a computer on wheels, and even the base model (which I have) has a ton of unnecessary features. The car has its own WiFi, an “infotainment” system, power windows (my old car had manual roll-up windows, which I liked because it was old-school), a backup camera, Bluetooth (so you can connect your cell phone to your car and make calls or look up stuff on YouTube), a USB port instead of a CD player (so now I have to rip all of my gazillion CDs onto a flash drive… *sigh*), and an automatic stop feature that supposedly saves gas. (When you press the brake, the car shuts off. It’s really weird.) The car would have had SiriusXM radio, but I opted out of it.

The car also came with a three-month trial of OnStar, which I let expire. Less than a day after the expiration date, a sales representative called me up to convince me to re-enroll in the service. Apparently, if you ever get in an accident, the car will automatically use OnStar to call emergency services. The sales representative made it seem like I would get in a horrendous accident and no one would be around to help me if I didn’t have OnStar. Well, that might be true if I was driving in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of the night when nobody’s around, but that doesn’t often happen. I wondered what people did before the onset of all this new technology. I thought about my old car, which had hardly any technological features. After I got in the accident back in June, the emergency services all showed up immediately. No OnStar needed. The only thing OnStar is really good for is the navigation system, but again… what did people do before GPS? I think it was called a map, and I think it was printed on something called paper.

Now about that “infotainment” system… I find it hilarious that as soon as you turn the radio on, a pop-up message appears on the screen and tells you that pop-up messages might distract you while you’re driving. That’s one of the dangers of connecting your phone to your car via BlueTooth: text messages from your phone appear on your car’s screen and absolutely could be a distraction while driving. So I resisted connecting my phone to my car, mostly because I don’t like talking on the phone while driving anyway. Some cars (I think mostly minivans) even have little TVs in the backs of the seats, which are meant to entertain children but really end up distracting the people who are driving behind the vehicle with the built-in TVs. When I was a kid, I listened to books on tape when I was in the car. Or I brought a stuffed animal (or five million Beanie Babies). Maybe those simple things aren’t good enough for kids these days.

There is also a creepy vibe behind the technology. When I had the free trial of OnStar, the car would send me a diagnostics report every month that told me how good a driver I had been. Somehow it calculated my driving score by keeping records of how hard I pressed the brakes, how quickly I accelerated, and what times of the day I drove. I sometimes wonder if the car had secretly recorded all the times when I started to sing out loud (and off-key) to my favorite songs or ranted about the other crazy drivers all around me. So I live in fear that if I ever commit a crime, the car might be able to go to court and testify against me. However, that’s not to totally reject all the computerized features. I like when the car tells me it needs an oil change, one of the tires needs air, or how many miles it can go before it needs gas again. The backup camera is also extremely useful, especially for me because I hate backing out of spaces. (I think they are making the backup camera a mandatory feature on all cars sometime in the near future.)

The dilemma with all this new technology is this: Do you allow it into your life for safety’s sake and the sheer convenience, or do you shut it out of your life to maintain your privacy and focus? The whole thing makes me think of a science fiction novel in which cars come to life and take over the world (sort of like Christine or Transformers but much more sinister), which gave me an awesome idea for a future NaNoWriMo story, but that’s a separate post.

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Is this a friendly face, or an evil grin that’s plotting mischief? Only the auto makers know… or do they?

Anxiety and the Internet

There are countless studies on how the Internet and social media provoke undue anxiety. Yes, the Internet can be used as a marvelous force for good in the world, but in my mind, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Because I’m a “Millennial,” it is hard for me to remember a time when the Internet was not a prevailing force in my life. I started to go online more often when I was about 16 or 17, back when Xanga was all the rage. Reading my peers’ rants and raves caused me to feel as though I had more of a connection with them, and I could more easily convey my thoughts in writing than in speech, so the Internet seemed like it would be a useful tool.

Sometimes I wish the Internet hadn’t made things so “easy,” but at the same time, if it wasn’t for the Internet, I often wonder if things would have been harder for me. This kind of speculation is a waste of time and can also lead to anxiety, so I tend not to think about it too often. I do find that it helps when I see articles such as this one, that acknowledge the need to unplug and regain contact with the outside world.

What can be done to get out of the anxiety-inducing online world?

  • Post less often. Figure out how often you post blogs or comments or podcasts and limit it.
  • Check email less often. It’s OK to let your inbox pile up occasionally. Most of it usually gets deleted unread anyway.
  • An addendum to the previous bullet: go through your emails and see which ones you can unsubscribe to. Trust me; there will be a lot.
  • Don’t turn on your computer (or don’t launch your Internet browser). Once you get it started, it’s harder to turn it off because of the next shiny thing that grabs your attention. So don’t even get that ball rolling.
  • Avoid reading news articles or looking at the news. It’s hard when it seems like every place you enter has ten TVs all blasting CNN. Bring a book or look out a window.
  • Put your phone on silent and put it in a drawer. If you don’t see it or hear it making noise, you might forget that it exists.
  • Talk to real-life people. This is the single most effective way to get out of the online world and out of your own head.

Honestly, the most important thing would probably be to remember that not everything you read or see online is true. Sometimes just knowing is enough to take the edge off anxiety.