TMI! TMI! Information comes flying at us at mach speeds 24/7. And we all know what 24/7 means. We have a collective attention span of a gnat on crack. Back in the 70’s, researchers were worried that fast moving pixels on a TV screen would rewire toddlers’ brains if they watched too long. Imagine what HDMI TV, YouTube, video games and texting have done.
I used to joke about the 16-lane freeway in my head. I’ve always been able to hold numerous thoughts simultaneously. With the additional information noise, it feels more like 32 lanes and growing.
It’s easy for the information glut to sneak up and whack you over the head. You don’t notice it at first. Suddenly you realize you are checking email on your tablet, texting a friend on your smartphone, adjusting the radio, and (I hope) NOT driving – all at the same time.
This isn’t new. Way back in 1970, Alvin Toffler popularized the term information overload in his book Future Shock. (Happy Birthday Mr. Toffler!) I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Alvin Toffler a few years ago at a speaking event. I was the MC and got to speak with him and escort him to the airport after his presentation. We spoke about how much of his books have come true. It felt as though, while he felt vindicated, he really had hoped his books would keep these things from happening.
We aren’t sleeping as well as we used to. People often complain about fatigue, and numerous police reports indicate that sleep deprivation is one of the main causes of traffic incidents. It’s no wonder: if you are exposing your brain to intense light and activity just minutes before bed, you’ve activated adrenaline and squashed melatonin receptors. Your brain thinks it really IS in danger from those little piggies or monsters or whatever video game you’re playing. The bright lights and action are changing your biological clock.
Not only that, your brain has activated its learning processes. Your repetitive activity in those games is creating new synapses and connections within your brain.
So what do you do? First admit you have a monkey mind. Then make an effort to turn off the electronics periodically, especially right before bed. Leave your cellphone behind and go for a walk on the beach. Go play a game of touch football with your kids this Thanksgiving Holiday. Go sledding when the snow falls. Decide to not open your computer until noon one day. Take an entire weekend away from all electronic communications.
I recently spent 6 glorious days in the San Juan Islands. On many of those days I’d discover I had forgotten to charge my phone. Oh well! I only checked email once a day. I noticed the world didn’t end. I didn’t lose any sleep or any clients. In fact, I came back more clear and ready to tackle all that needed to be done. Plus, I got to see whales playing!
Give yourself an electronic holiday. Get back to focusing on those things that will not go away even if the internet is down and there’s no electricity. Make friends again with your family in person. I promise your brain won’t implode! You deserve a break, and so does everyone around you.
Take care of yourself, we need you!
© 2014 Beth Terry, CSP • All Rights Reserved