Time is speeding up. It’s an inevitable part of being human. When you were five years old, each year lived was twenty percent of your life. Now that I’m twenty, each year that I’ve lived is five percent of my life. Each years means less and less in the grand scheme of things. Every moment is more and more fleeting, and routine creates a blur to which memories lose track of time.
With every passing second, I feel the urge to distract myself with something. Sometimes it’s with important things, like assignments or errands, other times it’s with the inane and stupid. There’s a reflex that many my age posses that has us grabbing our phones as soon as a lull in life hits us. I find myself pulling out my phone for a 10 seconds elevator ride, only to glance at the screen to note that: no, nobody has texted me, and yes, there is no signal in an elevator.
If I could remove myself from my body and look back as a phantom, it’d probably have a few choice words to say to myself. How hungry for stimulus must you be that 10 seconds without entertainment is crippling. It comes back to the plethora of distractions available to us. I frequently stare at buildings, or people on the street, just so my wandering brain has new optical input and doesn’t actually arrive on a thought. It’s quite possible and very often that I exist without thought entering my head. There is no deep pondering going on, not profound ideas, just emptiness as my sensory input is processed while whatever task at hand is performed. Recently phone stopped being able to play music through my headphones. I’m not saying that I took this as a sign, but I’ve done nothing to fix it and now I simply walk in silence.
Silence is an old friend. I grew up an only child, making up games for myself and reading a plethora of books. I am an introvert and I didn’t mind this set up at all. However now we are so connected as a species, there is a greater sense of disconnect. The more we see of everyone, the more watered down it all becomes. We see more but we feel less. There comes a time of year when everyone ages 17-18 posts their Prom photos. Our Facebook and Instagram feeds become inundated with our friends looking stunning from every possible angle. The more we see the more it blends together. If I only see five of my friends dressed to the nines, I’ll remember each and every one because each one occupies twenty percent of my perception of well dressed friends, as funny as it may sound. Contrast that to two hundred friends dressed in gorgeous gowns or stunning suits, which only leaves half a percent for each individual. As the access to information grows, our intake is distilled.
Imagine travelling to the past, back to the discoverer of electricity, or transistors, or computers, or even the internet. How would they feel about our use of the resources that they provide to us through their lifetime of toil and trouble. Right now billions of people have the sum of human knowledge at their fingertips, and yet they look at images of cats or angrily comment on a Youtube video. Of course I’m generalizing, but reexamine your use of the World Wide Web and tell me that you wouldn’t be a little bit ashamed attempting to explain to Ada Lovelace what you use your new fangled gizmo for.
The need to distract ourselves is so immense that it consumes us to the point of blindness from the point of it all. Why do we limit ourselves on a platform that is basically limitless. We return to the same sites day after day, refreshing feeds, liking images, writing less than 140 characters all whilst scrolling. Just for the distraction it provides. But what are we distracting ourselves from?
We are distracting ourselves from ourselves, from our own thoughts. When was the last time you sat down and just thought? I’m not talking about mulling over past events, what was said, who did what etc. I’m considering big thoughts, questions, queries, concerns. I’m talking about thoughts that move ourselves forward as individuals or as a human race. The biggest discoveries or inventions weren’t stumbled upon because someone was in the middle of distracting themselves. Their genesis was the turmoil of a mind at work, a mind tinkering and testing, a mind that wasn’t satisfied with distraction.
Think about all the technological advances over human history. Now think of the rate and magnitude of each of them. Without having any evidence what so ever to back me up right now, I can safely assume that it is proportional to the population of humans on earth. This makes sense, as the more of us there are, the better the odds are that someone will have a breakthrough in one subject or another. I’d hypothesize that in the last couple decades we’ve hit a plateau or even a decrease with the ratio of population to discoveries made. We are a population that receives pleasure from distracting itself from important thought. Our society is becoming more and more politically correct, which strangles thought. George Carlin once eloquently put it that to restrict a person’s language is to effectively restrict their thoughts, because we think and imagine using words, and without a vocabulary, how can anyone actively construct ideas central to those words. Now is not the time for my thoughts on political correctness, but instead on our culture of self distraction.
Why do we distract ourselves from ourselves. Why is there that ever present itch that can be temporarily scratched by looking at the superficial lives of others. Why are most pretending to be happy while they pine over other people’s fake lives. I see a culture caught up in removing individuals away from themselves by providing an ever shifting, ever new form of entertainment to be gobbled up in distractible nuggets. Books are too long? Here’s 140 characters. Movies are too long? Here’s Youtube. Youtube is too long? Here’s Vine. Vine is too long? Here’s a GIF. A GIF is too long? Here’s Boomerang. It seems as if it never ends.
My solution is to pull away from distractions and attempt to live in the moment. It’s hard, but I’m trying. Just shut up and listen. As someone wise once told me, you never learn by talking, only when you listen do you have the capacity to learn something new. So before time slips away any longer, take some time to listen to yourself, and learn something new.