Americans spend an average of five and a half hours a day with digital media, more than half of that time on mobile devices, according to the research firm eMarketer. And social media has only exacerbated the problem, especially among younger people. As much as I enjoy electronic devices, they have become for many what I call “weapons of mass distraction.” So, I am on a quest for quiet and invite you to join me.
I just finished reading a thought-provoking book titled Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge, whose treatise was trying to answer three questions: What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever? The Norwegian adventurer is the first person to traverse the North Pole, South Pole, and Mount Everest, so his experience of silence in its extreme uniquely qualifies his search for answers.
“Noise comes in the form of distracting sounds and images, and as one’s own fleeting thoughts. We lose a bit of ourselves along the way. I am not only thinking of how exhausting it can be to process so many impressions,” writes Kagge. “This is, of course, true, but there’s more to it than that. Noise in the form of anticipating a screen or keyboard is addictive, and that is why we need silence.”
“The basic business model of Twitter and other such social networks is to create a need for you to use the app, which the same app should then fill, but only temporarily. The owners live off your addiction,” Kagge adds. “Some users get a good response when they post something on social media, while most sit waiting for anyone to care. And the more unpredictable this interaction is, the more the user is addicted.”
And in an excellent article from The New York Review of Books titled “We Are Hopelessly Hooked,” Jacob Weisberg writes, “Even teenagers who don’t remember a time before social media express nostalgia for life without it. One place they still experience friendship without divided attention is at device-free summer camps, where they return after six weeks more thoughtful and empathetic.” So maybe there is hope after all.