In the past few years, I’ve recognised a worrisome trend in myself and others around me: attention spans are increasingly dwindling. These days, we are easily distracted, often overwhelmed by the commotion of surrounding sensory stimuli. As patience becomes a virtue of antiquity, the internet’s lightning speed has rendered us all sprinters, eager to accomplish one task after the next. With so much information at the tip of our fingers, it’s a fine line to navigate between being well-informed and hard-core addicts. Social media and sensationalist headlines compete for our attention, as each source attempts to fulfill our heightened, sensory thresholds. While technology has provided us with opportunities unimaginable in previous generations, it also inhibits our ability to critically reflect, as the tech industry infiltrates into nearly every aspect of our lives.
For me, it feels unorthodox, to be contactable all of the time through the means of a smartphone. I sometimes feel anxiety, if I leave my phone at home, as if the world will come to a screeching halt if I leave a text unanswered for a couple hours. In addition to the liberal dispensability of connection, it’s the urgency we stress on instant communication that’s perturbing. Emails and messages beg you to respond in a timely manner, or else you’re considered haphazard or even worse, blatantly rude.
However, the most pertinent issue of all is that this multitude of stimuli inhibits us of from properly reflecting on each event. More often than not, this generation has sacrificed sheer quantity of information over its veracity or quality of acquisition. We are voracious in our hunger to consume as much information as possible, without the capacity to truly process it. Our brains are not machines, and we were not created to mechanically or translucently filter information. To attribute meaning to each stimulus requires deeper thought, and this is what makes us human as opposed to artificially intelligent robots. In the dark ages, information about your surroundings is what enabled you to survive, and perhaps now too, it’s about survival of the fittest. The more we know, the more powerful our means of persuasion to reach our desired goals.
We seldom have the opportunity to be bored, when we can access anything we want. However, to be bored is also to allow your mind to wander and allow yourself to creatively loiter through the unknown. But maybe, this is what we fear the most. To be left alone with our thoughts, without the means of escaping what we truly feel. Not everyone wishes to reach their innermost core, and begin the excruciatingly painful process that is self-introspection.
Thus, as of late, I am trying to put away my phone, close my laptop and be a bit more mindful in my consumption. I would like to be a selective consumer, and engage with information that I think is worthy of my attention. It’s easy to be passively absorbed by technology’s whirlwind, as it swallows us whole with the affirmation that there are millions of other users, eager to consume the internet’s latest feed. However, in the midst of increasing diversions, it may be worth to seek out some peaceful silence, which so often mistaken for emptiness, is really just the absence of noise.