The picture kind of says it all, doesn’t it? (Artwork by Amber Estes)

The picture kind of says it all, doesn’t it?
(Artwork by Amber Estes)

Our current culture seems to insist that we can be more productive – and, it implies, happier –  if only we buy the right machines and use them to stay connected to the rest of the world instantaneously. Those who do not are labeled as hopelessly out of touch and out of date.  The marketing geniuses who for years have inundated us with “you’re not attractive enough” ads, “you’re not successful enough” magazines, and “you’re not hip enough” movies and TV shows have now added a new twist: “You’re not connected enough”. Now, in order to be in the loop, you’re supposed to have a facebook page, a twitter page, carry a cell phone, be active texting your friends and “tweeting” your most mundane everyday activities to the world. 

I have a couple of questions about this:

  1. Who cares what you just did/saw/ingested/excreted?

  2. Who has time to read about what kind of cereal some facebook “friend” just ate? Especially when anybody who’s anybody has hundreds if not thousands of such friends?

  3. How does spending all of your time staying “connected” in any way help you become more productive?

Even if, as many scientists have suggested, the brain is something like a computer, does anybody really believe that a computer running 25 apps at the same time is really running at peak efficiency? Aren’t we really inviting a human version of the infamous “computer bogged down/locked up until further notice” scenario every time we multitask? 

I may be old fashioned, but it seems to me that the best things in life (great music, falling in love, great conversation with a small number of intimate friends, sex, reading a great book,watching a great movie, athletic activities of many stripes, etc.) are those which absorb us completely, which command our attention so thoroughly that we get annoyed when they are interrupted. If this is the case, wouldn’t it be better to spend our time between such activities looking with open eyes at the world around us in search of more fulfilling things like these than distracting ourselves with colorful machines signifying little or nothing? Isn’t there a limit to the amount any single person can give attention to, and isn’t our attention the most precious commodity we have?

Of course, this thought makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite for blogging when I could be  experiencing something more worthwhile with my full attention. Looks like I’m a product of my own culture after all…