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Sanity in the Age of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple: Reclaiming our Lives

Daniel White, Sanity in the Age of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple: Reclaiming our LivesThe traditional objective of yoga is union — to connect the mind to body, and the self to soul. That’s what the yogi masters say in the ancient scriptures — connect to your higher self, realize that we are all connected, and transcend the ego. In the modern age, sometimes many of us feel like we are disconnected from our bodies, our emotions, and from all those around us. Sometimes we may feel like we are stifled by our own egos, suffocating in lonely desperation.

Some identify our technology as a source of our disconnection. It’s true, because when we feel disconnected we may look to our devices in search of comfort. Sometimes we seek solace through connecting with other people through Facebook, and other times through shopping on Amazon. I find it interesting to look at what we can call compensations. I am talking about the kind of compensation when we use something to inauthentically satisfy a need when we are unable to fully and truly meet that need. For instance, at times I’ve felt lonely and disconnected. It hurts inside: I want to be held and connected and to feel love, and I sometimes find that I cannot help but consume too many sweets or anything that triggers a dopamine reaction in my brain.

Daniel White, Sanity in the Age of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple: Reclaiming our LivesIn our time, it’s worth noticing how the big companies who give us our devices and services that we use almost everyday offer compensations for that deeper connection. In the book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, Scott Galloway discusses how this is the case with the companies listed in the title. Galloway says that each of these companies fulfills a different compensation for different aspects of our being, namely, the head, heart, gut, and sexuality.

Google has become the omniscient source of knowledge, the brain of our species. Yogic practice teaches that we are the infinite wisdom of the cosmos that is available at any moment through our “higher selves.” Yoga can help you feel your body, connecting your thinking mind to your heart and gut — our second and third brains—and rest of the body. In this way, yoga can help you find knowledge about what to do, where to go, and who to connect with as the mind becomes more sensitive to the signs flowing through the body. Google becomes the compensation for the disconnection from this awareness, the technological rational source of knowledge to which we turn for almost all wishes of information.

Facebook has become the heart. We have a deep need for a heartfelt connection with each other. Truly familiar and interdependent communities have defined human life for 99.9 percent of human history. In the past couple hundred years, this trend has shifted, and now we live in our own rooms in big houses, seldom truly depending upon others for the basis of our lives. Our money can be used anywhere to buy what we need, but we don’t truly depend upon the cashier or others involved in getting the products.

Daniel White, Sanity in the Age of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple: Reclaiming our LivesFacebook promises us this lost intimacy. We go on Facebook hoping for a new like, comment, or message. The red flag on the toolbar gives us a taste of that lost connection. Yoga can also help us reclaim true connectedness. By becoming more connected to our own selves, we can’t help but relate to others with more presence, authenticity, and feeling. Yoga helps us get out of our own way so we can connect more easily and deeply with others, thus making frequent checks to Facebook unnecessary.

Amazon has become the gut. As I said earlier, in unhappy alienation, there is an ever-present will to consume, and Amazon offers endless consumption. Ordering a new product can give us a taste of that satisfaction, perhaps through the hope of something that will bring fulfillment when it arrives.

I once went through a phase of internet ordering — supplements and health products thinking that each new pill bottle would elevate my life. That wasn’t my experience. I’ve found that connecting with the deeper wisdom of self has been a far better way of identifying what I need to elevate my health. We can also use Amazon to fulfill the lost connectedness with others. Clothing or other products can present a certain self-image meant to appeal to others. Feeling disconnected, we may also feel unloved or unworthy, and so new products may inspire hope that we will be better, more capable of being loved. This is closely related to Apple’s compensation center on sexuality.

Sexuality is one of the deepest drives of being human. Being disconnected from others and seldom engaging in fulfilling sexual relationships is a form of subtle and pervasive trauma. Apple has become the corporate leader of sexy products that promise to make you more appealing. As Galloway discusses, the sleek, shiny, expensive-but-affordable, top of the line gadget that can be worn or held on person sends the message that you are the crème de le crème of the sexual supermarket. However, what really makes us appealing is when we are connected to our spirit, our true self. Then we are comfortable and empowered, and send out vibes that others can’t help but find appealing. Also, we will easier find others who also practice presence, and then the relationship will be growth based. From the compensations of Apple, people may be drawn to each other, but relationships built on the illusions of product imagery will suffer hard endings as the problems of alienation rise to the surface. Again, yoga helps with the connection to self and relation with others.

Ok, so yoga can help liberate one from the illusions of separate self, enabling one to connect to others in meaningful and heartfelt ways, truly satisfying our deeper needs. But let’s go further, shall we? How about a look at how this is a bigger-than-self social justice issue.

Daniel White, Sanity in the Age of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple: Reclaiming our LivesThe bigger justice issue enters when we recognize how these big companies are using our state of disconnection to profit off us. Contrary to what many think, these are not benevolently minded companies seeking to maximize the public good. If they were, why would they hide their profits off shore so they can pay lower rates of income tax than you and I? Why would they depend upon slave labor and the destruction of the natural world to produce more and more products? Why would they look at us as consumers rather than humans, studying how our brains tic so they can create the most manipulative algorithms and advertisements to compel us to buy more and spend more time on their networks? It’s about profits, and it’s more profitable if we are stuck in disconnection.

The symptoms that yoga is often touted as resolving are sourced in problems bigger than the self. Sure, someone will talk about how we must change our own selves to change the institutions and system, but this is a limited approach. These companies are so powerful and pervasive that it is foolish to think that only efforts to change the self will be enough.

So, is the answer then to rally against these companies? I’m not sure, to tell you the truth. At this point, I think it is worthwhile to recognize how these companies are manipulative and compensatory in their services. It certainly has helped me to recognize the true motives of these companies and the roles that they are playing in society. Awareness inevitably leads to transformation, so enough of us recognizing these dynamics may shift the culture so that these issues are simply left behind.

Reality is so bewilderingly up in the air at this point that I don’t feel honest in prescribing a particular path of action beyond raising awareness and demanding that these companies operate with honesty and integrity of values. I sense that this system as we know it is so impossible that major changes are on the way. Whatever is the proper path forth, we can be sure that more awareness will never be a bad thing.

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