How many windows do you have open right now, as you’re reading this? Are you also glancing at your messenger, is your phone nearby in case someone messages or calls you, is your email open – checking the server every 32 seconds for any new messages? We fill each day with much more than we ever could before. Technology allows us to be always connected, available, active. Always on. And this technology fights for space in your mind. Consistently and Constantly.
Every minute of the day, we straddle different worlds simultaneously. We could be at a play one evening, yet we are also simultaneously a phone call away from work. We’re out for dinner with a group of friends, but only an sms away from another friend who’s halfway around the world. Each evening we spend equal time with everyone who’s online on Gtalk or MSN in equally meaningless conversations. You ask a girlfriend how her life is, and before you hear her answer (or see it) you’re responding to a classmate’s query on tomorrow’s coursework.
I was out for coffee with a friend a few days ago. While I was talking rather animatedly about something, he was drawn away by a phone call from his friend. I was left mid-sentence with my hands waving in the air. Rather than wait while he finished his conversation, I picked up my phone and continued an sms conversation I’d been having with a girlfriend, who was still at work.
So this is where we are. An interconnected web of people who are each in multiple places at once through the miracle of technology. Everywhere but Here and Now. Because to be both here and now and available 100% would amount to being a total loser! In this day and age, how could you not have something better to do all the time?
This, then, is what we yearn for – something better. Which is why our phones are turned on and set to vibrate in our shirt pockets, so that we can be reachable 24/7 just in case Something happens. We leave our blackberries on in the theatre, our messengers on from the minute we step inside the house, and compulsively check our email ever so often.
The inherent message is, whatever I’m doing right now is too far beneath me for me to devote myself to it one hundred percent. I am merely here for the lack of anything better to do.
After all, we’d never want to spend time with anyone who’d want to spend time with us.
Technology helps us in this. It allows us to go to several places all at once and what’s more, get there very very fast.
We run to our fast cars ( the very latest model ) so that we can zip out the driveway just in time to sit idly for an hour while cursing the traffic. We yell at the person at the counter to “Hurry up already” so that we can grab lunch and head back to the office where we can stare persistently at the screen at the report, willing it to edit itself, all the while clicking ‘Send/Receive’ in Outlook roughly twice a minute.
We hustle and bustle through our lives, losing context in the search for speed and filling it instead with ‘buzz’. A meaningless, white, snow-like noise is taking over our lives until we’re too busy to think. Our collective attention span has dropped to new lows. If something takes longer than 30 seconds, too late!, we’ve already moved on.
After all, imagine, if you had a full thirty minutes to sit and think! What if, horror of horrors, you realized that you didn’t have anything of importance to say anyway?
Now imagine if you didn’t check your email for a day, or a week? What if (and this is what we secretly dread!) the world doesn’t fall apart. What would we do then?