Hierarchy of Digital Distraction and the fog

Earlier this week I contemplated an internet sabbatical. It didn’t take long to realise that I would have to quit my job to take a real internet sabbatical so I just did something else for a while. Do you ever have those moments when your internet world seems to be more hot air than substance? When even a well-researched article on a war somewhere is just another well-researched article on a war and it all turns into a fog of information you should be taking in but aren’t. I think it means I need to turn off the computer and go outside.

I was planning on going to the MarketingNow conference on Tuesday which seemed like an event showcasing the people that epitomised my internet fog – ProBloggers and the like talking about social media. Turns out I was too sick on Tuesday to go anyway, so Rowan reported back. By her accounts, it was an informative, energising day. Following the Twitter tags from home made it sound like inane, vapid dross. It was like Christmas day for all the Twitter haters – not even a social media conference could survive being mauled by social media. I visualised rows and rows of people standing on a platform all yelling a single out-of-context quote at the same time.

I was healthier on Wednesday so I went to day two of the conference. Ro was right, it was interesting. I didn’t taint my enjoyment of the day by following the Twitter feed. I watched people around the room as they tweeted, facebooked, blogged, tweaked their new websites and read the news headlines while arguably some of the world’s most accomplished people in their field presented visually engaging and targeted presentations in front of them. It’s not to say they weren’t interested or engaged, it’s just how so many of us operate now. The day I realised that multi-tasking is not a positive skill was one of the happiest days of my life, but I still struggle to sit with a page as it slowly loads. I imagine that I can check my facebook feed in the 10 seconds I have to wait .

Anyway, the conference was good because the people who spoke are people who are using the fog to get stuff done. I think it requires incredible skills in logic and an ordered brain to use social media to its full potential without getting lost along the way. It seemed comforting somehow. Like those moments when you hear about someone who is an expert on archiving old newspapers, it’s a relief to know that it’s being taken care of. It’s a relief to know that these guys are all over social media, willing to keep up with it and report back.

I still went away thinking that an internet sabbatical wouldn’t hurt.

Overheard: a woman to her friend as they returned to their seats on opposite sides of the auditorium, “see you in the Twitter feed”.

Anyway, I wrote this post to share the Heirarchy of Digital Distraction with you. Cool, huh?

3 thoughts on “Hierarchy of Digital Distraction and the fog

  1. Josh

    Here are some drifting thoughts relating to the topic, compiled all together, but gathered partially from my reflections since I first looked at this post.

    Perhaps a conference is required dealing with the intersection of the internet and the sacred. To me it seems we haven’t yet attained an internet state of being which is able to navigate clearly, by which I mean, a culture hasn’t emerged yet that fosters sustained meditation.

    A telling line in what you wrote is, “It’s not to say they weren’t interested or engaged, it’s just how so many of us operate now”, meaning “to operate now” has become “to live in a semi-distracted state the whole of waking time”.
    This is truly damnable, the single greatest blight on human capacity at present in our world, and perhaps, that ever was. Technological capacity has burgeoned, whilst human attentive capacity – the capacity to “be with”, might be the best I can put it – has atrophied, and astonishingly, and badly. I am not making an evil of technological capacity. In fact, I think it is partly through this, this sudden awareness that is possible through it, that some transformation in consciousness – a re-opening to the sacred – can happen. In a sense what has happened, or is happening, is the parts of the human race in touch with this technology on a daily basis, are seeing in magnified form their distracted condition which pre-existed the internet. The magnification is great enough that we are forced to consider the present again, and this includes a sudden – astonishing – reconsideration of the heart of what it means to be alive. How could this have happened without the internet? I mean, its function has I think – unconsciously – been to radically *diminish* real world communication; to make a silence appear in public, a wondering space, in a way, something new to our culture, or well-forgotten. This means a reappearance of the sense of the sacred in daily life. A vital appearance in the mind that an activity may be making one unhappy, diverting one’s energy from the truest current of life… it’s that I think which leads to the urge for sabbatical. The question may be – how do we find a sabbath *internal* to the net, a time, a pause which is there with us, a form of respect, obedience even, such that this distracted mind – the one which is duplicated all over the globe like a cancer; the same everywhere, bitter, life-taking, masquerading as business and energy – is rendered nothing? What I am saying is no different to what the Buddha taught, if his teaching is passed correctly to me – that we are advised to be mindful first, enlightenment precedes, it does not succeed activity.

    Finally a little analogy I was reminded of tonight. It is with waiting for a tea-bag to infuse the water in the cup with its colour and flavour, with what’s inside it. The distracted interent condition of mind is one like the impatient one which wrestles the tea bag with the spoon, twists the flavour and colour out it in a hurry. You might wonder, “What’s the difference?”, it’s a subtle thing I think, it affects the reception of the tea – the mindfulness of the whole procedure, it’s being there for you… in dealing with the bag roughly thinking it doesn’t matter we hurt ourselves, because we are hurting something there for us… the time it takes to infuse the cup fully, well that’s for you, a gift! The internet, or its community of users, inhabiters, be-ers, needs perhaps to consider what is happening to their patience and the affect this has on their quality of being, their attentiveness, which also means their sense of worth and even the conditions necessary to grow. There! Enough for now! Thankyou for bearing with me!

  2. Josh

    Really? You agree with all that stuff? … Wow! … I’m not sure, or not completely sure anyway, that there isn’t room for giving the tea bag a bit of a nudge to get it going, and to complete the process, this could even involve a twist on the spoon… done carefully, I think it’s probably acceptable, respectful… or maybe it’s me trying to excuse a wholly abhorrent flash of impatience and non-being with the tea!! “he talks all nice and friendly”, sayeth one tea-bag, “then he hits you with the spoon!”.

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