Social media madness: Why distraction and discourtesy alienate us all
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Is anyone else feeling as disconnected as I am in this world of hyper-connection? Nobody seems to be listening anymore — even my dear friends stop in mid-sentence when their phone pings.
While responding back to whoever just usurped our conversation, they say they can still listen. It doesn’t feel like that to me, though.
They don’t look at me and we never get back to where we left off before the interruption. Something clearly has shifted.
Apparently, Google concurs. Fourteen thousand results pop up when I enter the term “multi-tasking deficit disorder.” Research shows that media multi-tasking is associated with negative changes in cognitive control and failures of everyday executive functioning.
Plus, it’s just plain rude. Or at least that’s how I was raised. The sad thing is, that’s how most of my peers were brought up, too.
Look around any restaurant these days. People are glued to their phones, not interacting with the person they came there to be with. Social media madness is rampant, distressful and global.
I first became acutely aware of it in 2011 while working as a Peace Corps Volunteer deep in the Rift Valley of Central Tanzania. In the midst of a meeting that took weeks to schedule and hours of waiting to actually happen, whenever a villager got dinged, whatever progress had been made would grind to a halt.
That next summer, while still in Africa and vacationing on an island in the Indian Ocean, I was stunned when a physician colleague placed his three phones on the dinner table and insisted upon leaving them on. Although on holiday, he couldn’t be out of reach for even an hour.
Fast forward to now. Social media trolls spew forth their vitriol. Online dating matches dispose of potential partners with one quick swipe. No one seems to think twice or consider the consequences before they act or speak anymore.
How can such behavior not impact our self-esteem, our sense of loneliness? We are alienating each other.
To my mind, this type of discourse has got to go. May I suggest a resurgence of common courtesy? A return to chivalry (non-gender specific, of course)? And, to “Try a Little Kindness,” as Glen Campbell crooned in 1969?
For any of these changes to last, though, we must become aware of what we are doing, feeling and needing.
Here are some starters:
1. Check your phone logs to see exactly how you are using your time. Compare the past twenty-four hours with the last ten days for trends.
2. Test drive living an hour without tech. The Nothing App may help you. What feelings come up? How comfortable or challenged are you while abstaining?
3. Explore what basic needs of yours are being met online as you become distracted or discourteous. How can you more directly and consciously meet these needs?
4. Finally, try simply focusing, fully, on whatever you are engaged in. Select a mindfulness practice and do it consistently.
I believe a more mindful use of media, one connection at a time, can change the world. I invite you to join me. Are you in?
Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively towards an object and sustain that direction without any distractions. Then the ability to understand the object fully and correctly is apparent.
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