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.
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.