Dragoș Iorgulescu



[caption id="attachment_452" align="aligncenter" width="744"]0 One Morning at Begnas - (c) Lokesh Maharjan (Wikimedia Commons)[/caption]

Saying that we currently live in a "hyped" society is not really something new. Especially in larger metropolitan areas, everything is moving fast, and most people feel that they need to move fast in order to be relevant and live up to today's standards. Of course, there are lots of jobs that demand speed (especially in the services & delivery sectors), but I am not talking about people working in those areas.

I am focusing on the average urban person that is bombarded by information, messages, e-mails, tweets, social media posts, etc. I am pretty convinced that, at least once, each of us has a moment where we are honest to ourselves and think "Man, I am really tired of answering to all these messages". That may be a reaction triggered by interaction with someone you don't really care about (superficial human relationships tend to be the norm, because we have to accept any form of human input all of a sudden) or maybe you are simply tired (your head and eyes hurt at the end of a work day, but you still hooked on your smartphone while getting ready to sleep).

Many people regard giving up on this "online frenzy" as self-isolation. Once one stops immediately replying to e-mails, instant messages and "Like requests" (that is what people usually expect when they send you a new photo of their lunch or some shots & selfies from their last vacation - of course, there are some RARE exceptions), everyone else assumes that person has a problem. Some may go as far as to think that person is dealing with severe depression.

I have been there myself, even though I was never that "hooked" to social media. I also used to constantly "check for news" on virtually everything, not realizing that this behavior alone had to do with how our brain "rewards" searching & finding something new. There is a great article from The Guardian, in which Daniel J. Levitan makes very interesting observations about our "modern behavior".

One of the paragraphs that caught my attention:

Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens. The irony here for those of us who are trying to focus amid competing activities is clear: the very brain region we need to rely on for staying on task is easily distracted. We answer the phone, look up something on the internet, check our email, send an SMS, and each of these things tweaks the novelty- seeking, reward-seeking centres of the brain, causing a burst of endogenous opioids (no wonder it feels so good!), all to the detriment of our staying on task. It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy. Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugar-coated tasks.

I recommend reading it.

"Digital minimalism" may look like a trend, but it seems that more people are starting to feel the side-effects of being permanently connected and "trained" to constantly consume "information". I will not go into details about the matter, since I think the idea is pretty self-explanatory, but I will post stuff here, from time to time, that are related to the subject.

Bottom line

It seems we have lost the notion of "practicality". We tend to embrace each and every shinny piece (or "treat") of technology we're presented with, never stopping for a second to think if that alone would bring us any real advantages (for example: is it really useful to adopt an instant messaging solution or a social media platform just because someone else already uses it and it's brand new?). We seem very eager to consume our own time and gladly become automatons that need to be constantly fed with online content to like, share and react to.

Do people realize how volatile online content has become? We share billions of photos (most of them totally worthless, let's be honest) and articles that we forget about in less than a week. We take 1000 photos while on a holiday, but rarely look over them again as time passes by. We "talk" to hundreds of people we call "friends", but don't really know at all (saying you know someone just by looking at their carefully crafted online profile is really absurd!), and we waste our free time doing it (and not only our spare time get wasted, but by "being present" even during work hours greatly damages your ability to concentrate and do something coherent and useful in a timely manner).

To what purpose, other than simply passing time doing (mostly) meaningless activities? Is there a way to escape this "virtual rat race" we are constantly lured into?

I believe there is, and the methods have never felt more simple and natural.