Throughout all of history, all mediums, all languages there is a common character that I associate with. I’m not sure what to call this character. The diver, the journeyman, the prophet. Frank the mysterious time traveling bunny in Donnie Darko is one of these characters. Leoben of Battlestar Galactica is another. Krishna’s incarnation in the Bhagavad Gita might be a similar character.
Sometimes you need a mysteriously energetic character to show up in your life to show you the future.
I am the creepy bunny from Donnie Dark, and here’s what I know: in the next two years the noise you have to deal on the Internet will exceed your human capacity to deal with it.
You will either learn use the Internet in an active and intelligent way, or you will die trying in the endless soup of emails/Tweets/Facebook messages or whatever platform instantaneously tells you what everyone in the world is doing through your brain interface to your computer.
I like to refer to this as mindfulness training for the digital self.
Below I’ve included four decisive ways that you can begin to train your digital self to protect your physical self from the dangers of the digital so you and your digital self can grow in power in order to become a hybrid superhuman.
What is a digital self?
In the Koshas, an ancient 5,000 year old yogic philosophy, they speak of the different human bodies which you must strip away on your way to your true self, the Atman. The physical body, the energy body, the knowledge body, the wisdom body, and finally your true nature which cannot be explain in words.
Well, I want to add one more to that list, the digital body. I’m sure the yogis 4,000 years ago would not like me bending their philosophy, but they’re all dead now, so deal with it dudes.
The digital self is very close to the idea of the energetic self. Except, it’s not running under the body, it’s running in the etherspace –the cloud, the network of fiberoptic and wireless conduits that are stitching the world tighter and tighter together.
Just like you have to keep your physical body healthy with eating your veggies, you have to keep your digital body healthy by not allowing it be overcome by empty-calorie noise.
As the digital body grows in power, this becomes ever more important.
At the lower wrongs of human interaction with the net, it’s easy to answer and reply to every email you receive. However, when as your digital body grows in power (as you want it to, because the other side of the digital body is that it’s everlasting and can potentially grow to a point where it takes care of you — more on that in the future don’t forget to sign up for free updates via EMAIL or RSS.) you’ll find that it will start to have it’s own gravitational pull.
The digital self has gravity, just like the Earth and the Sun. As it grows, it attracts more and more space debris from cyberspace. Some of this incoming matter is good for your digital body, like forming alliances with other powerful avatars.
However, as with most solar systems, most of the junk out in cyberspace is just that, junk. It’s like the clutter that I taught you how to get out of your life in The Art of Being Minimalist in order to find freedom. Except, this time it’s digital, immaterial, made up of bits and bytes.
One of the jobs of the digital self is to defend your mental/knowledge body from the debris that will clutter your mind with useless information.
Many of you are just getting started on this journey towards building a digital self that will take care of you. My digital self has been growing simultaneously with my physical body since I was very young — it was first manifest as a small website on Geocities when I was probably only 10-12 years old. A few times my digital self died, but that was okay, because it’s easy to bring it back. Back then it was much harder to create a healthy digital self, you had to learn how to code and other clumsy things like that.
Gradually over time your digital self grows, and because there are no boundaries on it’s capacity to grow (just like your energetic self) it can become quite powerful. The reason you’re reading this is because my digital self has a strong gravitational pull.
As when you were a teenager, your digital self is probably in the awkward years when you were trying to figure out how to kiss girls because you know they’re hot, but you can’t quite figure out how to make (<– you can’t make) them like you. Hint for you teenagers out there: practice more yoga.
Mindfulness training for your digital self is a huge priority in this age of the Internet.
A healthy digital self will defend you against anything, a digital self with a weakened immune system will allow digital bacteria to invade, and this translates into all sorts of problems for your body in the real world.
As we grow into increasingly hybrid individuals, we will begin to see our own physical health effected more and more by the health of your digital self.
This is all digital philosophy though, what we need to talk about is real strategies that you can put into play in order to train your digital self to take care of you.
1. How to Engage the Internet Actively.
The most important element of your physical/digital body interactions is they need to begin to start happening actively. This means you decide who you interact with online, instead of the online world deciding who interacts with you. Eventually your digital self will learn how to pick your friends for you. It might even set you up with some incredibly hot dates with beautiful and talented women, but for now it’s important for you to decide who you want to interact with online.
Malcolm Gladwell’s classic The Tipping Point states that you can only really keep track of 150 people actively. This is why I only follow 79 people on Twitter right now, because as the digital self grows in power, the connections become ever more important. If you’re trying to keep up with even a bit more than 150 people, your digital self is liable to start to get anxious, and that nervousness will translate into your physical self eventually.
If you follow everyone on the Internet, you’ll end up hearing a lot of stupid stuff about kittens. Kittens are freakin’ cute, but we aren’t on the web to read about them. We’re on the web to save the planet, create world peace, and bring everyone to the next level. Who knows, maybe kittens can save the planet, but I don’t think so.
2. How to Set Appropriate Expectations.
Every single person I know who has grown a digital self until it can take care of them passively, no matter what they decide to do, has set appropriate expectations for how their physical body will interact with the Internet.
For Tammy Strobel, this is turning off comments on her blog.
For Gwen Bell, this is checking her email once per day.
For Leo Babauta, this is not using email at all.
The truth of the matter is that Leo Babauta does use email, you’re just not allowed to know what his email address is because if you had it he’d never get any work done. Gwen Bell might actually check her email once per day, but the expectation set that you might just not hear back from her for a day or two. When you turn off blog comments, your blog will begin to grow exponentially in power because the now everyone who wants to write something about what you’re saying has to do it on their own blogs — thus hyperlinking to you.
Hyperlinks are like food for your digital self, it needs them in order to keep from starving. Your digital self also needs hyperlinks in order to grow stronger, defend you against anything, and ultimately take care of your physical body completely.
Most people set the expectation that they will reply to emails the moment they get them. This approach is in a very real way killing you, your physical self and your digital self.
If you set the expectation that you’re always there, you’ll end up running around like a pigeon with it’s head cut off checking your crackberry or iPhone every minute of the day. You know this feeling, and it isn’t good. Checking your email every single second of every day makes you fat, ugly, and stressed. It keeps you from becoming successful.
3. How to Train Your Digital Self in Martial Arts.
You have to train your digital self to defend you against attacks from other lesser beings on the Internet. As your digital self grows in power, so will the attacks that come in from every direction. Most of these come from confused humans who don’t understand that we’re all here to save the planet.
The truth of the matter is that you cannot argue with people online, it’s just not productive. The only way to deal with people who are trolling your digital self is to banish them.
If a crazy person came up to you on the street and started screaming at you to stop doing your work, would you listen to them? Of course not. The same goes for the Internet, and yet so many of you let these people decide how you feel about yourself.
As your digital self grows with gravity, the attacks will increase at an exponential rate. This is shocking at first to a lot of people. The first time someone emailed me and told me to stop doing what I was doing, I cried. The next time, I still cried.
You know what? It still hurts. Every single time I get a message from some idiot out there who wants to lash out at me because he hates his life, I can only feel eternal sympathy for them, which translates into my own discomfort.
You can only take so much of this, before you want to kill your digital self by deleting your Facebook and never write another blog post again.
The trick is to train your digital self in martial arts.
As soon as your digital self identifies a troll…
1. In email, mark as SPAM.
2. On Twitter, mark as BLOCK.
3. On Facebook, unfriend immediately.
Do not engage in counter-strikes against these people, do not argue, just ignore them. Criticism is the least valuable commodity in the world, and you do NOT gain anything from bringing it into your life.
Gradually you will be seen as impervious to these attacks. I also believe that one of the developments on the Internet in the next few years will be the intelligence to decide what messages are allowed to come to your physical body, and which will automatically be recognized as attacks on you and your work.
If you need feedback on your work, seek it from someone who has done what you are trying to do.
4. How to Take Digital Retreats.
Sometimes the reality of the digital world becomes too much. You can’t sort through the noise because the cloud is too thick. You’re drowning under email, tweets and Facebook messages, and you can’t see a path through. In this case, it’s time to take a digital sabbatical.
If you remember I took a month-long digital sabbatical in August, and when I returned my business was having the best month it had ever had. Initially I had concerns that the digital sabbatical would kill my blog, but it turned out to do the opposite.
Instead of falling apart when I was gone, my digital self grew in strength and took care of everything that I needed. When you’ve embraced systems of automation, your digital self can grow in power until it can be in a position to do just this.
Where I’m at now.
Many of these strategies for maintaining the digital self are useful, and I’ve practiced all of them at one time or another. I just want to give you a brief overview of where I am personally at this moment in time (December 2010.)
1. Twitter. I follow 79 people on Twitter who I care deeply for. This leaves room for new people to come into my life, and to have real-life friends. I listen to Twitter @messages and love it when you retweet my stuff. Probably the best way to get in touch with me is over Twitter. If you really want to be my pale, don’t ask me to promote your crap. Just retweet my stuff every time I post for a few months and chances are I’ll notice you eventually. Trust me, I’m watching you. Follow me on Twitter.
2. Facebook. My facebook is interesting. Recently I decided to open up the flood gates and allow anyone to be my friend. This means that I don’t actively read information on Facebook, instead going directly to friends pages as I think about them. Facebook is getting much much better at shaping your front page based on who you actually send messages to or ‘Like’, so I’ve found it’s a great tool for dipping into the endless river of social media. Please note, Facebook is NOT blog comments, and I’ve had to unfriend a few people who choose to argue with me about stupid crap on my Facebook wall. Be mindful of what energy you’re sending out onto other people’s Facebook walls, it reflects back on you. Be my friend on Facebook.
3. Email. I only check email once a day. I’ve recently started archiving most of the emails that come into my email box without reading most of them. If you want a reply, here’s what you need to do. 1. Keep your email shorter than three.senten.es. 2. Be clear with what you’re saying, and if you need anything. 3. Don’t send me negative energy. I wish I could reply to every email, but there are only so many hours in the day and 80,000+ people read my blog every month. This means I get a lot of email. I always read emails from the small group of people who I’ve chosen to actively follow, see my Twitter following list. Please don’t send me any email here.
4. Digital Sabbatical? I’ve been thinking of taking another digital sabbatical, but I realized that I don’t need to. In fact, I’m really enjoying engaging with the Internet on an Active level. This means that my digital self and I apply mindfulness in our approach. We choose the information that comes to us, and choose which information to respond to. This doesn’t mean I won’t take a digital sabbatical again, it’s just that most of my day is a digital sabbatical. I only check email once a day, I respond to a few people instead of reacting to every byte that comes along.
When you approach the Internet in an active way, it doesn’t become overwhelming. Instead, it helps you become greater than yourself.
I hope you’ll consider joining us in growing your digital self, it might just bring you to the next level.
There are three incredibly important e-book/books that come out this week that I want to point you in the direction of. These aren’t for everyone, but I want to bring them into your awareness, so you can buy them if they’d help you.
These are affiliate links, if you buy these you’ll support my work too.
1. Ash Ambirge released an e-book titled You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts, which shows with an absolute no bullshit approach what your world could look like if you had the courage to take your life and use it for good. This is highly recommended.
2. Tyler Tervooren released an e-course titled Guerilla Influence Formula, which teaches you how to find your 1,000 True Fans on the Internet. It also comes with a 1,000 True Fans guarantee, so if you fail you can get your money back. I contributed a video interview to this, as did many other successful bloggers. This is highly recommended.
3. Timothy Ferriss’s epic new book about becoming superhuman, The 4-Hour Body just hit stores and Amazon today. Tim didn’t send me a promo copy, so I’m going to grab a copy today. I’m sure it’s epic. I’ll let you know what I think when I finish it.