I like to apply the rule of ‘less is more’ in many aspects of my life, but I can’t help noticing that every day takes us deeper and deeper into a world where ‘more is more’. The perpetual stimulation and, as some may call it, distraction, leaves us with so many things zipping through our minds per day, per hour, even minute that a commitment to a single task seems far from possible for most (Did you not just get a Twitter notification, email, text, phone call?). According to Virgin mobile, 1 in 5 people will interrupt sex to answer a phone call. Most sleep with their phones constantly on and those with smartphones will often check their email before getting out of bed in the morning, with 6 in 10 Blackberry users checking their email in bed on a regular basis. Furthermore, ‘four out of 10 said they kept them nearby as they slept so they could hear incoming mail. A similar proportion said they had replied to emails in the middle of the night. A further 37% responded to emails when they were driving.’
Digital and in particular social media has enabled many phenomenal communication channels as a result of which we seem, and I believe are, better connected both across borders and with our real close social networks. I don’t believe that the nature of human relationships has changed due to the Internet, I believe it has merely enriched our relationships and given us more freedom and choice in how we develop and maintain them. The only possible problem this richness may cause to human relationships is the fact that today we probably deal with more relationships at a time than ever before which leaves less room for each of them. One could claim that our relationships have thus become more shallow, but again, that is a grand generalisation and a personal choice that people can make by themselves. What digital has given us is merely more choices in how we interact with our environments.
Oh, the choices we, and our children will have to make. How many friends will you manage to talk to this week? Will you call your parents? Will you catch up on you favorite blogs by the end of the week or spend time outdoors instead? Which information and with what restrictions will you put on you Twitter, Fb, whatnot? These are just a few of the decisions to make for most of those engaged in digital. The distraction or rather multi-tasking might not be a bad thing; it might make our minds more flexible and thus capable of processing more information at a time allowing us a greater capacity of experiences within a given unit of time. The neurological changes might make us into a different kind of a human over the next generations, which is a part of evolution, whether in the right or not direction.
So yes, more is more, but the trick within all of this possibility is not to spread your experience, your life, too thinly. The world of the increasingly ubiquitous more requires more discipline both in our daily behaviour and attention. The small choices every day can be driven by the same logic as paying attention to how to deposit of your recycling – everything mixed together might just not be the best option. Where you start is another question, perhaps not checking your email at night and getting some sleep instead could be one of them.
For related articles, please read:
Benefits of Distraction at NYT
Rules for balancing technology and relationships at Timesviou
Illustration by Glen Cummings/MTWTF
(Photo: John Day/Getty Images)