If you Google “The joy of quiet”, you’ll probably get Pico Iyer’s opinion piece which appeared in The New York Times’ Sunday Review, served up to you! It struck a chord in me the first time I read it a few weeks back, but by the fact that it got me thinking several times about its intended message prompted me to want to share it with you.
There is apparently a trend in the market right now where people who, not too long ago, were clamouring for the latest in high-tech, time-saving gadgets and devices notwithstanding just tablets and smart-phones, are also the same folks who are now trying to get away from them! On top of this, from the time we wake up till the time we hit the sack, we are unavoidably subjected to thousands of commercial messages, advertising videos, electronic information, and every other form of “noise”.
There is a significant community out there who are “desperate to unplug”.
It has been reported that the average American spends at least eight and a half hours a day in front of a screen. The average American teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day. One third of teens send out more than 100 SMSs a day, the predominant group being teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 17. Iyer points out that researchers have found that the average office worker today enjoys no more than three minutes at a time at his or her desk without interruption.
We are all living in an info-plagued world where, if we are not careful, we will surely be drowned in an avalanche of texts, moving pictures, brand inferences, flashing lights, sounds and all kinds of commercial spew! People are paying for Freedom software that enables them to temporarily disable their internet connections. In South Korea and China, internet rescue camps have been set up to save kids who cannot pull themselves away from the screen. Iyer noticed that those who part with $2,285 a night to stay in a cliff-top room at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur pay partly for the privilege of not having a TV in their rooms.
You’ve heard of alcohol and drug rehabilitation centres. Well they’ve now extended their product range to help reform internet addicts!
The French philosopher Blaise Pascal was so aptly quoted to say, “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” Let this piece serve as a check for all of us here in Singapore and relevantly so – what with internet speeds increasing exponentially; smart-phone penetration shooting through the roof with many of us carrying two hand-sets; tablets and more launching left, right and centre; brands and advertising being plastered on anything and everything.
Friends, let’s not get burnt out for the wrong reasons! Focus on the software that counts – our friends, family, children, parents, colleagues. Make time for these and more – sports, hobbies, music, and the arts. But most of all, do take time to relax. Thomas Merton rightfully puts it when he said, “Man was made for the highest activity, which is, in fact, his rest.”