I've been drawn lately to articles related to information overload, the inability to "unplug" (an outdated phrase thanks to wireless connectivity), and other social changes brought about by technology.
Maybe because it's Summertime, which conjures up the image of lazy, carefree days. Maybe it's a side effect of being "always on" for over a decade, and experiencing first-hand the quickening pace of life. Or it could simply be the increased media attention that this topic has received.
Consider this excerpt from a recent Economist editorial about our increasingly nomadic lifestyles:
The social changes are already visible: parents on beaches waving at their children while typing furtively on their BlackBerrys; entrepreneurs discovering they don't need offices after all (if you need to recharge something, you just go to Starbucks); teenagers text-dumping their boyfriends. Everybody is doing more on the move.
Digital nomadism will liberate ever more knowledge workers from the cubicle prisons of Dilbert cartoons. But the old tyranny of place could become a new tyranny of time, as nomads who are “always on” all too often end up—mentally—anywhere but here (wherever here may be).
I see it all around me (commuters wildly changing lanes while talking on cell phones, business people in meetings but constantly checking their email) and am guilty of it myself (watching television while also also IM'ing, paying bills, or talking on the phone).
Which is why I so enjoyed the article "Sweet Nothingness" that appeared in the July issue of Lola Magazine. In it, Carolyn Y. Johnson writes,
Lolling around in a state of restlessness is one of life's greatest luxuries - one not available to creatures that spend all their time pursuing mere survival. To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one. It is in these times of reflection that people often discover something new, whether it is an epiphany about a relationship or a new theory about the way the universe works.
Granted, many people emerge from boredom feeling that they have accomplished nothing. But is accomplishment really the point of life? There is a strong argument that boredom - so often parodied as a glassy-eyed drooling state of nothingness - is an essential human emotion that underlies art, literature, philosphy, science, and even love.
Something to think about.
And as you head out to this 4th of July weekend, try to unplug. Leave the BlackBerries at home in favor of a lazy day at the beach or park.
Let's celebrate independence...and nothingness.