I turn my head from side to side slowly, like a pendulum, without rotating my body. I observe the hills and valleys of faces illuminated by the backlight of their cellphones, curiously tracing their eye movements, twitching left and right, up and down. Vigorously flicking their thumbs in an upward motion, occasionally prodding when something, an article or another cat video, arrests their attention.
Sigh. I never imagined that scientists and physicists foresaw this scenario when they started shrinking technology with their intelligence and book learning… but here I am, perspiring in the train like a Swede in a sauna, surrounded by people who couldn’t give a damn about other people. Very rarely, I would forget to pack my bluetooth headphones and never have a spare set of earphones with me (cables, am I right?). On those days, I get reminded of how lonely and uncomfortably silent a morning rush hour commute can be.
Can we even focus anymore? Can we commit ourselves to one task and see it through without even breaching the restraint of wondering what our friends are showing off on Facebook?
I asked myself this question when I realised just today, that I’m having difficulty reading a book. Well, since you asked, I’m reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a little birthday present from my partner Daryl.
And well, since you asked again, what I meant by ‘I have difficulty reading’ is the ability to focus. I can’t seem to just drop myself into a literary world anymore. My mind constantly wanders to other thoughts and (mostly) questions. Mainly questions about why my Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are all too quiet. You know you’re guilty of that. I have seen people on the train using their phones… except they’re not. They’re just fiddling around, changing the settings and tapping on random apps without purpose. There’s still brain matter on the ceiling of the train where my mind was blown right where I stood from witnessing that.
What happened to just enjoying the commute, or just being bored? What happened to just staying in your head for the duration of the journey, content with just being by yourself?
We have completely forgotten what it’s like to just do nothing and this is the biggest side effect that we are all experiencing. Literally just 10 seconds ago, while typing out the above paragraph, I grabbed my mouse and checked my mail because the icon below shows that I have 10 unread messages. I did not have to do that… but what is it that compels my mind to stray; to be completely distracted by another occurrence, making me abandon what it is I was doing, totally disregarding the importance of the task?
Most of the time, I, personally, push the blame on smartphones. Ultimately, it is the one item that has led humanity into a coma; it was the final tool.
The internet is a very useful invention. It has made the world a smaller place for everyone. It has also made the world a lot easier to live in, due to information on demand. Before the internet was widespread, you only got the news via the paper or news programs. It was a morning ritual for most of us.
Now? Constantly bombarded by news left and right. Remember those newflashes on TV which made you think, “Oh no. Something serious is about to or has happened.”
Today, a photo goes viral and the news apps send you unbelievably annoying beeps, reminding you that this famous person just got her buttock implants to match her synthetic calves.
It’s this constant barrage of information that makes us feel overwhelmed all the time. It has increased anxiety in so many people and it’s just relentless.
Here’s another newsflash: the world has never been perfect. Society yells and complains all the time now, spreading fear and going so far as to call this era the worst in human history.
Firstly, fake news (but you have to read it in Stephen Colbert’s Donald Trump voice). Secondly, dramatic creature, you. Third, the only reason you feel that way is because now you’re aware of all the horrible things happening in this world. Whether you knew about it or not, indescribably horrific events have always been happening left and right. This is one apt instance where I have to use a clichéd phrase:
Ignorance is bliss.
I do apologise, I seem to have strayed away from the initial topic.
I think I may have just proved my point.