I want to be the person on the train who notices things and remembers faces and wasn’t glued to his phone the whole time.
I want to be present, even in the liminal moments throughout the day. Waiting in line, waiting for my coffee, waiting for the page to load.
I want to feel embodied as I walk my dog. I want to hear birds and feel sunshine and feel like part of the environment, rather than being stuck in my headphones.
I don’t want my day to be subdivided into podcast episodes.
I don’t want to find myself thinking in tweets.
I don’t want the most memorable parts of my day to be something I saw on a screen.
I can’t remember most of this stuff afterwards anyway.
There used to be so much more space to be bored, to be alone with my thoughts. The internet was someplace you went deliberately, not an ambient part of the environment. My hand didn’t twitch towards my phone if I forgot the name of an actor or something. I didn’t feel the need to check my email while pooping. My hand didn’t compulsively reach for my phone, because I wasn’t afraid of being alone with my thoughts for more than 30 seconds.
The web is built around hyperlinks, and yet I was so much better at making connections between disparate ideas before I carried the whole internet around in my pocket. Maybe having those connections constantly, instantly available has made my brain offload that function, just as it’s made me offload my memory. I’m 29, but I can’t remember things like I used to.
I’m scared of being remade in the image of the devices I carry.
Time feels disjointed to me now, smeared across the devices and websites and the services in which I’ve fragmented my identity.
The valuable things in life come with lots of friction. They take work and the capacity for deep, deliberate, concentrated focus. If we lose the ability for that, how can we muse? Savor? Pray? How can we Be, rather than Do?
Meditating using a smartphone app is like hosting an AA meeting at a bar.
Constant stimulation is a drug. The more content we consume, the more content we need to consume to feel satiated. Eventually we find ourselves on a treadmill and the only way our brains feel stimulated is by constantly consuming more and more. We have to check our phones while watching Netflix. We have to flit back and forth between Facebook and Twitter and Instagram while watching Netflix. Even that starts to feel boring. Eventually we’re bored all the time, because the world doesn’t hold enough interest for our gluttinous, addicted brains. The more stimulation we feed ourselves, the more boring everything becomes. Eventually we can’t even be in the world without listening to a podcast or checking the latest on our phones because all of Creation isn’t enough for us.
Sunshine and birdsong may reflect the glory of God, but have you seen this article on Buzzfeed?
I didn’t know what to write after that last sentence, and suddenly I realized I’d opened up Chrome and hit
T and return and suddenly I was on Twitter. It was a reflex. I didn’t even know I was doing it.
Slow is good. Boring is good. The more we allow ourselves to be bored — the more we allow ourselves to be alone with our thoughts — the less boring that boredom will seem. The world has infinite stimuli and infinite depth, but we can’t appreciate depth if we’re constantly training ourselves to prefer breadth. We’re skimming when we could be luxuriating. All because our monkey brains crave stimulation and the internet is the world’s greatest Skinner Box.
I want my brain back.
I want to be bored more.