Disconnect and reintegrate with reality

Joseph Langan

When the president is a former reality TV host who campaigned on being a good businessman, despite filing for bankruptcy six times, it’s easy to lose sight of what is real and what is not.

We live in a nation where certain media outlets bombard us with biased “reporting” in order to generate profit-driven outrage, widening the divide between liberals and conservatives. The reality of any situation often lies somewhere in the middle of these polarized perspectives.

That is why it’s so important to disconnect for a while and reflect on what surrounds you outside the phone in your pocket. Besides, getting ensnared in our digital web is often bad for our health.

Our average attention span has decreased from 12 to eight seconds since 2000. This would put our average attention span just below the infamously distracted goldfish. If the studies are true, how much of a role could our social media ecosystem play? 

The first thing we do as soon as we’re bored is reach for a phone. Jumping from texting, to scrolling through Instagram, checking SnapChat to reopening that Safari tab you’d forgotten about can’t be having a healthy effect on our lives.

The prominence of brevity and rapidly switching between tasks is doing a lot to ensure we hold onto our thoughts for less time. This communicative infrastructure combined with the fast-paced consumption of bite-sized portions of infotainment is turning culture and ideas into fast food for our brain. How often do you see somebody reading a novel — not a textbook — on the bus? When was the last time you were able to sit through a whole movie without once checking your phone?

We need more time to breathe and more space to think. We need to reintegrate ourselves with what is real. Your physical sensations, your thoughts and the self-awareness of being in human relationships are all real phenomena drowned out by the digital cascade.

A constantly flowing Facebook feed is a dam blocking your creative potential. It’s not a problem that these online media exist. The problem is that the options for entertainment are endless.

Boredom can be a powerful tool to incite curiosity and to propel you toward pursuing solutions and ideas you wouldn’t have otherwise. If every moment of tedium is burned away by your phone or laptop screen, you’re not generating new thoughts, you’re just digesting the thoughts of others.

We seldom take the time to notice the beauty around us. Visit one of our wonderful national parks and go hiking for an afternoon. Bring a partner to a park or take a solitary stroll through the woods. Learn to be more aware of your thoughts with mindfulness and meditation.

Turn off your phone for a weekend, leave your laptop on the shelf and rediscover yourself and your aspirations. After all, that’s what life is all about.

Joseph Langan is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].