Saturated

 

I have noticed a trend lately in my media consumption, and I am not thrilled.  My Kindle has begun filling up so much that I forget which books I am currently reading.  I will overfill my Buffer queue (Buffer is a social media scheduling service that I use so I do not bombard everyone with ten articles in a single half hour span) and run out of time slots in my free account.  The number of unplayed podcasts I have on my phone overwhelms me.  This is too much media, I am realizing.  I cannot possibly absorb and digest it all.

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Don't get me wrong.  I love how easy it is to learn about nearly any imaginable topic now, thanks to the internet.  Everyone dabbles because we can.  We are all jacks of all trades, but, I would also argue, many of us are masters of none.  We can go broad with the click of a mouse or swipe of our finger but rarely do we go deep.  My book club recently read The Shallows, and although I have some criticisms, I found myself nodding in agreement with the author's central argument: We consume so much so quickly now that our brains are forgetting how to think critically and sustainedly.  I keep pushing myself to take in more, more, more so that I will become "smarter," but is more necessarily better?  

You probably see where my rhetorical question is going.

Others have begun voicing concerns about our recent fast-paced, soundbite culture, and the study about the attention spans of humans compared to goldfish raised a few eyebrows (guess who won?).  But the solution is complicated.  I am always wary of romantic portrayals of past ages, for every era has its gifts and its challenges.  We live in a technological age, and I have no desire to return to an earlier time.  Yet I am increasingly realizing that consuming upwards of 50 or 100 pieces of content a day is not doing my brain or the content creators any favors.  It is sort of like I am eating a pint of ice cream for every meal where I am full of calories and lacking in nutrients: I am saturated with information but coming up short on meaning.

I might try to read slower.  I might click on less links and take the time to reread instead of immediately jumping onto the next thing.  I might make more space for silence (like I have during Lent) and perhaps I will even shift the balance to actively creating more and passively consuming less.  It most definitely will be a process.