Of all of the marvelous 19th-century fictions that could have come true for us in 2017, the metaphor of the Rabbit Hole from Alice in Wonderland occurs as often as breath itself.
"We don't want to go down that rabbit hole"
"I fell down a rabbit hole for a few hours"
Yet, what was the rabbit hole, really? It can be seen as a gateway, a brief passage between the real and unreal. It's a place where nothing happens, yet everything happens.
The Rabbit Hole is exactly what the internet has become for most of us alive today. It can easily ingest and contain the best of us.
Yet, the internet rabbit hole is also the perfect visual platform for artists who want to say something about the world.
On the internet, we are all writing letters to Theo, letters to our muses, or letters home, and expressing our best or worst selves in the form of Instagram posts, tweets, Facebook updates, and snaps: "Look at this hat!" "Look at my dog!" "I love life!" "I hate life!" "I'm in Paris!" "I have a bunny face!"
The only problem with the internet, for artists in particular, is that it becomes a process of over-consumption rather than production. Instead of posting our work, which is a process of giving, learning, and sharing, we can tend toward over-absorbing the flood of information fed to us by others.
Consuming images from an inspirational standpoint is usually okay - who hasn't scrolled through Pixiv/Tumblr/Google Images/Pinterest for an hour straight? Who doesn't need the occasional triapse through the forest of Instagram?
But after a while, the long hours of scrolling and watching timelapses turns into a fascination with slomo videos of French bulldogs, shopping for new pencils that may or may not help, or ...
Too much internet feels like buying too many shirts - we forget why we bought ten shirts, five of which are okay, the other five are.. uh, really ugly. It's too much.
I started using Freedom when I heard about it on, of all things, the radio. Freedom is an app that turns off a device's ability to access social media sites. (It can also block access to any website whatsoever). Freedom costs $10, and once you have the app, you are free to install it on any number of devices you own.
When I downloaded Freedom, I still wasn't sure.
"Do I really have enough of a problem with social media?" I asked, perusing the egoic cataclysm of my 45,000 tweets. "I'll try it out anyways."
Using Freedom is easy - you simply download the app on the device that plagues your every waking moment, then you tell the app what you want to block, and how long you want it to be blocked, and then you can no longer access the blocked site.
While running a Freedom Session, if you try to refresh Instagram/Twitter/Your Preferred Bane of Existence, no new photos will appear. Tweets will go away. Facebook tries to load but fails. You can only access the blocked site after the timeframe that you specified passes, during which you are hopefully painting a masterpiece.
What I like most about Freedom is you can make custom block-lists and block your Crafty Inner Demon of Distraction at very discrete levels. You don't have to block access to everything.
Want to tune out on Instagram, but you're waiting for a message from your cousin on Facebook? Block Instagram only. Tired of assuming the mental shackles of impending nuclear annihilation? You can block news sites! Meanwhile, you can keep access to Pinterest, cat memes, and Facebook wide open.
It is all so very granular.
Freedom turned out to save me so much time that the only way I can describe it is this:
Remember yourself before 2004, when Facebook came online? Remember life before emailing? Remember life before Twitter assumed the protean mantle of meta-commentary? Remember all of the things you used to do? Well, now you get to do those things again!
When I was sitting at my parents' computer in high school, connecting to Netscape Navigator in order to access the Banjo Kazooie website after 30 minutes of modemnal bleeping, I never imagined my life as an adult would have so much internet in it. I never imagined that someday, all of the things I so deliciously had to wait for - video game news, comics, messages from boys I liked - would all happen at near-telepathic speed. I wonder if that Banjo-Kazooie website is still online...
Wait, what am I thinking? I should probably focus and finish this blog!
Well, distractions come at us from all angles. My primary medium right now, an iPad Pro, can fortunately/unfortunately access Twitter and Instagram any time. Freedom transmutes this whimsical instant cat-viewing device into something like pencil and paper. I usually just block social media, but if I am in need of reliving the feeling of drawing as a kid in the 1990s, Freedom can block the internet as a whole.
There are moments where Freedom doesn't work perfectly, but it usually does just fine if the app is updated on all devices. For instance, if I turn on Freedom from my phone and tell Freedom to block social media on my phone, my computer, and iPad, then the block doesn't always carry through from the phone to the computer. I have to start up the blocking process from the computer in order to block the computer. This is all fine, it takes me a couple seconds to do, and saves hours upon hours of liking tweets that I think are cute. or tweets that I want to remember, or whatever it is that I want to achieve by liking tweets. I'm not sure.
Freedom has changed my art in that I have started keeping track of just how productive I am, instead of just letting the hours slip away. (Here is one of my tracking blogs)
Freedom is a medium because it allows me to do my work. It makes the art happen.
I love the internet, I love laughing at that Mr. Krabs meme, and I love my friends that I've only 'met' online, but I also love making art. The feeling of focus, of being utterly and completely within a moment, is among the best feelings on the planet. If you've ever struggled with the guilt-hammer that strikes after realizing you've spent the last 90 minutes on Instagram, you should give Freedom a try.
When Alice falls down the Rabbit Hole, she is presented with wild visions as she falls. The rabbit hole is kind of an interesting place where we encounter cool hallucinations and familiar faces, but there is nothing to do there but fall - no real chance to create or paint.
The point of the rabbit hole is to connect the boring surface world with the world of Wonderland, a place of enlightened physics and topsy-turvy thought. We have to live with the fact that the rabbit hole is now embedded in every phone, computer, and tablet. The rabbit hole is a great place, but Wonderland is much better.