I very much dislike what has happened to my attention span.
I don’t know if it’s that I can’t focus, per se. Mostly, I think that because of technology and social media my brain makes me think that I’m supposed to have something exciting popping up and be completely entertained by something every few seconds.
Think about it.
Have you every just wondered why you feel bored? You want to get home from work and then you get home from work and you don’t know what to do with yourself. I don’t know about you but it makes me feel yuck and also a bit guilty. I had a wonderful teacher that once told me, “Saying you’re bored says more about you than your circumstances.” I’ve never forgotten that.
And what is it about me? I’m entirely convinced I’m addicted to the internet. Let’s be honest. My name is Amanda and I have a problem with social media. I don’t even like it that much. I mean right this moment as I sat still to think, I had to resist the urge to type “Fa” at which time my internet title bar would automatically fill in the rest of the letters and take me directly to Facebook. Do I want to go to Facebook? Not really. I think I’ve reprogrammed my brain.
I’m not putting down technological accomplishments. The internet is good for research (it’s great for reading Star Trek: TNG and General Hospital Fanfiction). Social media can be good for promoting creative endeavors, keeping in touch with friends, and being tagged in photos where you have two chins. *smirk* It was amazing yesterday that I could Skype my Mom who lives three hours away on my phone while we were getting the kayak ready to put in the water at the lake. It made me feel like a lot of my trek dreams had come true. However, a man drove by while I was on the phone and stopped his car. “Can I ask you a question?” I agreed to listen. “Why are you up here on the street holding your life jacket instead of at the lake?” I answered that I was waiting on the boat to be ready, but as he left his look was one of bemused scrutiny. Why was I missing out on moments with my husband to Skype or in other times in our marriage, to scroll through Facebook or Instagram or whatever social media site that had posts that I hadn’t seen five times already in the last few hours?
I read on a site this statistic — People who use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will use 10% of their entire life time on these sites. (www.londoncitygirlmagazine.com) I also read somewhere recently that we receive in one day more news than some people do in a lifetime. We are overloaded. 10% of your entire life on social media? (I dare say it is more for people that feel isolated, are chronically ill, or maybe just nosy.) 10% might not seem like a lot but let’s think about it this way … What if you’re not meant to be here for a long time? What if your “forever” with a husband or partner is much shorter than you imagined? What if all a friend, grandparent, parent just has 10% of their life left? What if that 10 % was all you needed to put in the extra work to start that business, finish the book you’ve always wanted to write, begin an exercise program, read to your child instead of handing them a tablet to watch a movie? My big ones that come to me while I’m staring mindlessly at a screen for most hours of a day – Why am I looking at a device while I’m praying? If 10% of my income is to go back to God? Shouldn’t I also be giving Him at least this 10% in Bible study that I’m too tired to engage in for more than 30 minutes while I can lay in bed and scroll through social media past my bedtime.
We compare ourselves nonstop on social media and the internet to celebrities, other couples, other women/men. It is damaging to our marriages. It is damaging to our friendships. It is damaging to our relationships with God because really we’re measuring ourselves against social standards and other people. Not that we don’t do that at times but (Wham!) here’s an even easier way to do it on a larger scale. It’s easier to be mean to one another because we feel disconnected. It is also harming our families.
We think that social media creates community, but it is actually stealing it from us. Do we realize how many people feel isolated? How many people feel unsuccessful because they are gauging their lives against the photos and comments people choose to show the world (at their best!)? I have felt it being long distance to my family. Everyone sees what’s going on with you on Facebook so they think they know and so they never pick up the phone, hardly come visit, don’t write letters (oh, my goodness, what’s a letter?) There is no community engagement. Now if you talk to someone regularly and have coffee with them regularly without checking your phone every five seconds … then, maybe. Admit it though, what percentage of your information that you get about your friends and family is gathered from checking their Facebook page?
I miss nature. I miss phone calls. I am a lover of quality time and I feel ashamed of myself that I stare at a screen more hours a week than I would like to admit. Tally it up. Texting, internet on phone, taking photos of a moment you’re not really experiencing, working by looking at a computer screen, if you watch TV when you get home, reading on a tablet. How many hours do you spend looking at a screen? How many hours do you spend looking into the eyes of the one you love or talking to your child? It’s false community based on false truths and people are not feeling loved (some but not most).
As a community, we need to be taking care of one another. If everyone helped someone that was downtrodden, going without food, or needing encouragement … how much better would the world be? Community gardens, walks, talks on the back porch until the fireflies come out? Maybe it’s just me who is beginning to feel robbed, mechanical, and like I’ve developed a problem that I really never should’ve had. I’m a reader. I’m a writer. If I could take back all the hours I’ve spent without purpose on the internet because my mind is so used to being overly stimulated … how much writing could I have produced? As an introvert, it is no longer just talking and putting myself out there that wears me out. It’s being overstimulated daily on the internet. We have been taught that “multitasking” is something to be commended. However, it is a lie. Our brains were not meant to multitask. Something is losing out.
What is the answer? I’m not sure. I can change things in my own life. Be outside more, contact more people, stay away from devices when absolutely unnecessary to be on them, and engage in the life I’ve been given while I have to blessing to do so … but if everyone else remains the same. Who am I going to commune with? We are vulnerable when we become dependent on anything but let’s not crumble because we’re rebuilding community on quicksand instead of a strong foundation with a sturdy cornerstone.
How many conversations have you started today that began, “Have you seen Facebook today?” “I saw on Facebook that so and so is having a baby.” “I saw on Facebook that so and so lost their father to cancer.” How many begin with how are you and then giving the gift or your fighting with all you have to give them your full listening attention?
I want to change — even just in baby steps.
If only Mr. Rogers were still here. Well, maybe I’m glad he doesn’t live in this virtual neighborhood.
“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.” – Mr. Rogers
“I’m proud of you for the times you came in second, or third, or fourth, but what you did was the best you had ever done.” – Mr. Rogers
“There’s a nurturing element to all human beings, whenever they themselves have been nurtured, and it’s going to be expressed one way or another.” – Mr. Rogers