Fading of Presence
The Plus-Minus of Devices
If I asked you to enumerate the advantages of owning your devices (cell phone, tablet, smartwatch, e-reader, laptop, etc), I have confidence your list would be long.
There’s no going back to a much simpler time when the electronic options listed above didn’t exist. Most days, I see this as a net positive.
Imagine how much harder the pandemic would be on all of us if we couldn’t connect via Zoom, FaceTime, texts, etc. We’ve all heard stories of last goodbyes, not just for those dying of COVID but for anyone who was gravely ill, that were facilitated by medical caregivers holding a phone or screen for the ailing patient. Not ideal, but much better than nothing.
Despite my deep respect and gratitude for these advantages, I’ve also been known to hanker for a less device-centric world. I fear our fascination and fixation with screens is eroding our ability to give something or someone our undivided attention. It’s so much harder to be fully present to what’s happening in-the-now when our phone or computer is ping-ing us with notifications, constantly.
I never read Be Here Now by Ram Dass, published way back in 1971, but the book’s title serves as such a useful mantra to counter the tugs on our attention that devices impose.
Alas, there are challenges to being here now. The now, without diversions, may be too painful, empty, unsatisfying, anxiety-producing, quiet, etc. Any of those possibilities could make us strive to be anywhere but in this present moment.
Devices aren’t our only distractions. Personal worries and concerns can occupy considerable real estate in our psyche. Then there’s the exponential expansion in types of entertainment that are readily available to watch/listen to any time, not just at some specifically designated time. Global, political, environmental, economic worries and concerns abound, as well.
With so much vying for your attention, don’t you find it difficult to block out the “noise?” Has anyone’s attention span improved as our modern world has been inundated by so much more stimulation? Call me Debbie Doubter! I can think of at least a handful of people who’ve told me they hardly ever get around to reading a book these days (and yes, I’m in that handful).
It takes immense discipline to “down-ping,” a term I just made up to describe any attempt to change settings on our devices so we won’t get poked with notifications that don’t require our immediate attention.
The pull to respond NOW can get us in its grip so fast. (For a sobering but excellent documentary about the impact of social media, I highly recommend Netflix’s The Social Dilemma. If I were a high school teacher, I’d make it required viewing for every teenager.)
For this respond-NOW demand, perhaps three words serve as rebuttal: Can It Wait? (It usually can.)
It may be virtually impossible to go a whole day in Be Here Now mode (unless we’re super-enlightened . . . and who is?) but why not strive for pockets of uninterrupted time in any given day? Maybe we have to start small: shoot for one radio-free hour? Heck, what would it be like to go an hour without multi-tasking? (Don’t ask me for advice on this because I fail miserably at this!)
What strategies do you use to reduce the “noise?” What helps you Be Here Now despite all that competes for your attention? How do you push back on those “respond-NOW” demands? Please feel free to share in the Comments below; your suggestions will no doubt benefit all of us.
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Prompts For Joy
Click here for a humorous look at life in the 2020’s.
Click here for hilarious menu items lost in translation.
(Thanks for the chuckles, Michael Sally!)
For those who have expressed an interest in my collages, you can follow me on Instagram. (Ha ha, kind of funny, given the topic of this month's Limb, to be urging you to do something else with a device. Just providing a real-time example of the plus-minus of devices!)
Why Assemble a Life? An Interview with Author and Artist, Martha Clark Scala
What motivated me to write Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself)? Check out this video to find out. Comments and feedback welcome!
Top: Upside of Carrying a Device: Alstroemeria in the ‘Hood. Photo by Martha Clark Scala.
Below: A sample page from Chapter 19 in my memoir, Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself).
Praise for Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself) by Martha Clark Scala
"There is a healing you offered not only to yourself but also to one reader —me — and I’m sure many others . . . in watching the unfolding of your history. Watching you so intimately tell the in-depth story is brave and inspiring."
~ Anonymous Reader
Sample page from Chapter 19. This memoir is loaded with color photos (and some black and white) on just about every page. A visual feast.
To purchase the premium softcover or e-book versions of Assembling a Life, click here.
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