The Addiction of Our Times

funny, social media, addiction,facebook,twitter,busy, work, overwhelmed

“I believe this is a very special moment in history, a kind of perfect storm. There is a growing recognition — to borrow language from AA — that our world has become unmanageable…The addiction of our times is digital connection, instant gratification, and the cheap adrenalin high of constant busyness. The heartening news is that more and more are beginning to recognize the insidious costs of moving so relentlessly and at such high speeds. Just below the surface of our shared compulsion to do ever more, ever faster, is a deep hunger to do less, more slowly. I saw proof of that a couple of weeks ago, when I wrote an article for The New York Times titled “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive.” It focused on the growing scientific evidence that when we build in more time for sleep, naps, breaks, and vacations, we become not just healthier and happier, but also more productive. The piece prompted an avalanche of response, much of it poignantly describing the sense of overwhelm people are feeling at work…Speed, distraction, and instant gratification are the enemies of nearly everything that matters most in our lives. Creating long-term value — for ourselves and for others — requires more authentic connection, reflection, and the courage to delay immediate gratification. That’s wisdom in action.”

- Tony Schwartz, How To Be Mindful in An “Unmanageable World”


No irony here whatsoever, as I sit at 3:57 am rifling through emails and reading posts…


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Comments

  1. we are seeing this especially amongst our children who cannot self discipline and switch off from the electronic airwaves……

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  2. Inspiration for our children no longer comes from adults showing great courage and leadership at home, work or politics, so they have found another source. When I was growing up I wanted to be like Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger and was outside playing all day. Where are the roll models now? Frightening, as you say, David.

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  3. I actually hold out some hope that as the generational pendulum swings, there will be a return to some re-ordering of priorities. The boomers were the ones who defined ‘playing hurt’ as an outstanding performance characteristic, our chest-beating insistence that no one could raise the bar like we could. There is an increasingly loud chorus in the workplace of younger people who want their life to mean more than committing sixteen hours a day to their employer, who want to involve themselves in their own lives with a bit more balance (another topic). The good news – I think that kids ultimately are going to go back outside, books will be read (albeit electronically) and with fingers crossed, families may learn how to do things together again. The bad news? Labor displacement (which is already in play), erosion of organizational culture, more sillos of specialty and less collaboration. Sorry for my long winded response. I guess I was just so happy to see this in my inbox this morning.

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    • Hmmmmmmm. You’ve got me thinking girl. Agree with most. The younger generation want their lives to mean more than committing 16 hours a day to work – – yes, who doesn’t. Yet this same generation wants all of eat the sweet fruit of the labor that emanates from the drive. Can’t have it both ways. As to your good news (kids going back outside, books being read), I’m not seeing that movement yet…but I’m normally years behind smart people like you…

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  4. This resonates deeply with me as well. In a similar vein, I heard a very disturbing story on NPR the other day about family dinners. The “featured couple,” who had three kids, finished dinner in approximately 7 minutes, with the TV blaring the entire time, Dad (an attorney) on his smartphone “surfing Facebook to relax,” and Grandpa playing on his iPad, while Mom begged/cajoled/threatened her youngest to take “3 more bites” of vegetables while urging the eldest to stop punching the middle son. Whaaattt?! This insane fixation with “multitasking” et al is incredibly disturbing, and like you David, I say this with no small amount of irony as *I* “get my morning iPad fix” at 6a :-/. Praying that Mimi is right and the pendulum is beginning to swing….

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  5. When my grandchildren came to visit, they didn’t know the difference between meal times and TV time, which I found very disturbing. Also on the subject of instant gratification; children seem to get so much stuff these days, that nothing is a treat anymore. As a granny, I find this so sad.

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    • Sylvia, I’m with you. I too find it sad. Recall asking Eric to go for a walk in the woods with Zeke and me – he wasn’t interested. Nothing seemed to interest him in a walk. And this is a boy that scores in Biology classes. I hope it all ends well for our society.

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  6. Knowing a little bit about addictions, OK, maybe a lot…we do have a problem and it has become unmanageable. The cure has become the sickness. Maybe we simply need one of those big, solar flares to knock out all our electronics and then we can just start over with chalk and a blackboard? (probably not the best idea I have had this morning)

    PS…read as slightly sarcastic….

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  7. As soon as adults realize that they cannot have it all, do it all or be it all and can truly relax and know that everything is not life or death in every second, then children will relax and do the same. They learn from us. Whatever we are doing, they emulate. Every device has an off button. Every person has a heart, mind, eyes and a mouth with which to express our love for each other. It all begins with each of us, individually. We distract ourselves from ourselves. We are missing in action (of our own lives).

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  8. I am aligned with Mimi on her point. Boomers share much of the blame for this “never stop” culture. Honor was awarded those who worked the longest, traveled the most and missed the most vacations. I flash back to a young, talent VP who was terrified of telling his wife that he’d have to “call in” every day of their long awaited 10 year wedding anniversary trip because he was more terrified of what would happen at work if he didn’t. Thankfully, the millennials I teach and work with are different, at least at this point. They challenge silly work, silly rules and protect broad interests. I cheer them on as they enter the workforce.

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    • I can’t disagree with any point you make Susan. I hope the millennials are better able to balance work and life and continue to maintain a lifestyle that keeps them happy.

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  9. I might be a bit off track here but it seems to me that each generation disapproves of the next due to a sort of romanticized nostalgia. When I was a kid, I was always in trouble for reading too much and not playing with other children enough. Now kids are in trouble for engaging with media they were brought up with and not reading enough. But they are reading; they’re just not reading books. Okay, so that’s just one example and I know I’m overgeneralizing but I don’t think living in a digital world needs to be seen as a bad thing – it’s more the ‘busyness’ mentioned in the excerpt above that is the problem. I think we have become (particularly in western culture) addicted to busyness.

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  10. Technology can be used for good or ill. Certainly I see it in children, the attention-deficit, the hyperness, the inability to sit still for more than a minute or two.

    Pascal, back in the 1600’s, wrote: “All of our problems are caused by our inability to sit still quietly alone in a room” (paraphrased).

    Busyness isn’t new. It’s just much much easier to do nowadays.

    And this abundance of new technology also allows us to deepen and become wiser, if we’re selective and wise about how we do it.

    We can write and blog in a way that helps our own critical thinking and ability to examine ourselves and our world. We can write longer and hopefully thought-provoking posts.

    Of course, based on personal experience, the lengthier the post I write, the less “likes” it tends to get, and the less comments as well. So I must conclude that either my posts are off-putting because of their length, their content and possible depth, their subject matter, or their tone–i.e. maybe I’m just a huge off-putting bore. Or perhaps some bit of all of the above.

    But I put constant twittering and facebooking and blogging in the same category distraction-wise as gossip magazines, frivolous books, most pop music, most TV shows and even movies.

    There is so much out there competing for our already divided attention. There is so much out there competing to numb us even more than we already are.

    But all of this stuff wouldn’t appeal so much to us if we weren’t already susceptible to it, if we weren’t already deeply looking to divide ourselves and decimate our thinking skills and numb ourselves.

    And from what are we trying to constantly numb ourselves?

    It’s obvious.

    The same stuff that the Buddha elucidated over 2500 years ago–our own impermanence, and the threats of illness, old age, death. Loss, of one form or another.

    Sit still quietly in a room, and deep down this is what we’re all afraid of and trying to deny and somehow circumvent.

    So what’s the alternative?

    Distraction is the well-traveled path. The vast vast majority of human beings have been doing it for ages.

    The alternative to the path of least resistance is the road less traveled by. It’s a tough and lonely road.

    Is there some middle way, some way of really facing our own mortality and still enjoying the fruits of technology?

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    • John, I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughtful comment and insights. I had not heard that Pascal quote before. Wonderful. I’ll need to marinate in your words for a few days and come back to it during the weekend when I have more time. Thanks so much. Dave

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      • I didn’t have time yesterday to look up the exact quote, so I was trying to recall it from memory and paraphrase it. It’s in Pascal’s book “Pensees.” It’s in section titled “Diversion.” “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” But since Pascal wrote in French, so the translations vary.

        Thanks again for posting the excerpt and the good food for thought! Enjoy your weekend.

        John

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  11. David, this is an outstanding post. It has clearly tweaked some people’s interest. I am wary of the use of the word ‘addiction’ when it comes to our use of technology. Sherry Turkle, a social psychologist at MIT and author of Alone Together, has pointed out that we need to learn to use the tools. She agrees the behaviours are addictive-like, but says we need to be increasingly mindful in our usage. She spoke at Wisdom 2.0 and I had the opportunity to hear her a couple of years ago. She makes a compelling case for mindful and artful use of digital technology and is very critical of mindless implementation and usage. She pointed out playground accidents have increased over the past generation, because parents and care-givers are not ‘present’ for their children.

    I love the great conversation you inspired here. Did you attend Wisdom 2.0?

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  12. I agree…and how do we stop the madness?? It’s a crazy world. I hear about more and more people having sleep problems and I’ve wondered if it’s because we keep our brains so busy all day long with all the craziness that they’re just unable to shut off at the end of the day. The whole thing is truly frightening to me. We’ve created a very unsettling world in so many ways. On the other hand, PLEASE don’t make me close down my blog! :-)

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  13. I’m going to argue that time spent online is down time for me. This might be ridiculously optimistic but I’m going with that…

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  14. Loaded subject. Well handled.

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  15. I read somewhere that the chair is going to be the cigarette of our generation.

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  16. I laughed, but then thought, “How true!”

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  17. petit4chocolatier says:

    True to life!

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  18. Reblogged this on Sherry Clayton Works.

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