The Age of Distractions
Historians and anthropologists love thinking in terms of “ages”. Titles like “the Stone Age” or “the Iron Age” reference important technological discoveries that shaped human culture and capabilities. Modern history teaches us about important time periods like “the Industrial Revolution” or “the Space Age”, as defined by huge leaps forward in technology and their impact on people and communities.
Our current time period is known as “the Information Age” to emphasize the tremendous impact technologies like television, the internet, and telephones have had on how we live our lives. Jobs have transformed around these advancements, families have changed how they communicate, and the way we consume information has made a massive shift.
The Information Age has provided us with technologies that make it easier than ever for us to keep in touch with loved ones, or research nearly any topic we please. However, it’s also given people an endless source of distraction in the form of videos, articles, and social media posts, all accessible within seconds from a device we all keep in our pocket: the cell phone.
These quick hits of visuals, audio, and information are available to us 24/7, with no restrictions other than our own discipline. As a result, there is less time in the day for us to be still, and quiet in our minds.
Stillness and Boredom
Ever try sitting quietly for an extended period of time? These days, there’s a huge temptation to break that silence by pulling out our cell phones to occupy our attention. With the steady stream of information we enjoy, these quiet moments can become restless, as our ever-active minds crave more stimulus.
But consider what we lose when we fill every quiet moment with another shared article, social post, or lip-sync video. Suddenly, every sight and sound around us fades as we fixate on the glowing screen. We rob ourselves of the present moment, in favor of a fleeting hit of content.
Next time that happens, let your own context be your content. Be fully aware of your surroundings, the space you occupy, and the people around you. It’s in these moments life tends to hide its most valuable lessons.
Or, you may find yourself feeling bored. Embrace that boredom! Give your mind a chance to rest. Place your attention on your immediate situation.
The silence and stillness we call “boredom” actually has a lot to offer us, in terms of creativity and discovery. Surely you’ve heard someone say they had a great idea “in the shower”. For some of us, that would be one of the few times we aren’t checking our phones. In my own experience, nothing cures writer’s block like quietness.
Challenge: Next chance you get, spend ten minutes in silence. Don’t look at a screen, don’t read a book, don’t even put on music. Just lean into your own senses. Be still and enjoy a short break from your constant stream of information. You may discover, remember, or notice something completely unexpected.