We live in a world informed in large part by digital devices and outlooks, and one of the primary impacts of thinking this way is to assume the rigors of digital time as our own. Our digital universe is always-on, constantly pinging us with latest news, stock quotes, consumer trends, email responses, social gaming updates, Tweets, and more, all pushing their way to our smart phones. There are so many incoming alerts competing for attention that many phones now allow users to swipe downward to reveal a scrollable screen containing nothing but the latest alerts pushed through. Everyone and everything intrudes with the urgency of a switchboard-era telephone operator breaking into a phone call with an emergency message from a relative, or a 1960s news anchor interrupting a television program with a special report about an assassination. Anything we do may be preempted by something else. And, usually, we simply add the interruption onto the list of other things we’re attempting to do at the same time. By dividing our attention between our digital extensions, we sacrifice our connection to the truer present in which we are living. The tension between the faux present of digital bombardment and the true now of a coherently living human generates (a kind of present shock). The things we use do change us . . . It’s not about how digital technology changes us, but how we change ourselves and one another now that we live so digitally.
– quotes from Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff
Technology is not evil–that would just be to easy to jump to this conclusion, right? To just feel guilty about our smart phones or to feel pride about our resistance of them isn’t helpful as we seek for a way of life that is deeply present and open. We must not simplify our tendencies to be always on to such an either/or solution: “I’m awesome – I don’t own a smart phone” OR “I’m awful – I own an always on, pushing, pinging, tweeting, hand-held machine.”
As our life has become more digitally immersed, our devices call for us to keep pace with them–but we are analog. We are not meant to be always on, always updated, always processing, always available. Rushkoff says these devices (really our settings on these devices) draw us away from the present — to a “faux present” which is on the periphery of present living. You know the scene, right? Being in a room with friends, your kids, or even alone–but you are actually anywhere but there . . . you are captured by pins, likes, comments, replies, forwards, pokes, pushes, tweets, and who knows what else (this is admittedly outdated the moment I type).
What do we do to unplug?
Consider the artwork by Chris Castro. Inspired stylistically by a traditional mexican folk artist, Chris captures the the tone of the words of Rushkoff. The always on-ness is deteriorating us.
How can we infuse a value stillness back into our life? into the life of our communty? into the life of our kids?
Sit for five minutes in silence.
After the minutes have passed, note what your experience was.
Do you think silence could become easier? In what ways?