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Slow down, you're just in time

  • 11 September 2013

More is expected of us in ever-smaller amounts of time as we strive to keep our productivity at pace with unending advances in technology. We are expected to be connected to more people more often, be across more information and be contactable more of the time (if not all of the time).

If this isn't enough, we can easily become buried in more data than we can process and more sensory stimuli than we can register. In a manic social media environment, with overbearing communications technologies and an unhealthy obsession with efficiency, an even greater issue than heightened stress is the resulting sense of meaninglessness as things become measured not by their significance but by how much they cost in our most valuable currency — time.

Nowadays there seems little chance to thoroughly reflect on anything. No 'spare' minute can afford to be wasted — it must be filled with the 'convenient' use of our devices. And of course we end up feeling like we have less time.

'Our perception that we have 'no time' is one of the distinctive marks of modern Western culture,' said writer and broadcaster, Margaret Visser. How true this is.

When our minds have little opportunity for reflection or downtime, we can fall into the habit of simply reacting to life. Gone are pockets of unfilled time, rainy afternoon boredom or opportunities to daydream or consider the 'bigger picture' at length.

On my way home on the tram recently, I observed the scene around me. The only two passengers not entranced by their phones were a man and a woman of the baby-boomer age bracket. I watched as they made eye contact (which was in contrast to everybody else who remained oblivious to their surroundings) and joked about the failings of the myki system. They connected, however briefly — and it seemed to put them both at ease.

Meanwhile, the other passengers seemed to be entirely elsewhere, mentally. One woman did occasionally lift her eyes from her iPhone — but only to do something on her iPad.

Do we lose touch with those actually around us in the attempts to maintain the endless streams of second-rate contact electronic communication allows us? In effect, this would mean that our communications technologies result in less real communication between people.

Before Facebook, people would usually find out about engagements and births and job promotions directly from the person — or at least through a mutual friend.