There is a scene in Wall-E, the 2008 Disney film about a robot left to clean up an abandoned Earth. Humans are living on a spaceship, hugely overweight and shunted around in automatic chairs, slurping up their fizzy pop while watching a permanent screen.
I think of this scene all the time lately, a scene created as a science fiction, a dystopian view of humanity which was so far removed from reality that it was laughable.
But we’re getting there, aren’t we? Plugged in to our screens, consuming brightly packaged food in vast quantities. And because we’re plugged in, we also consume vast amounts of information.
On average, we touch our phones 2,617 times a day. In our browsing, it seems we are digesting 285 pieces of content every day – in words, that’s equivalent to a novel. And it’s not just us, our kids are spending on average 6 and a half hours a day in front of screens.
But what do we do with that information?
The trouble is, we can’t possibly process it all. So that we don’t become overloaded, instead our brains process it all at a more superficial level. We sacrifice depth of thinking for breadth of information. We know that too much screen time has an impact on our health – our abilities to concentrate, our weight, our sleep, our relationships, even our sex lives.
But more than that. How much does information overload affect our lifestyles? If we’re not processing the information that we’re reading, how are we making decisions that affect our daily life? Are we engaging with them – or blindly doing what we have been reading about. And then joining a yoga class to try and help us lower our overloaded heartrates.
In fact, how fast are you reading now? What are you doing at the same time? Are you really concentrating?
Time to stop.
Why is this all so important?
Because it’s also affecting our mental health. If we don’t stop and breathe, if we’re just skimming our way through our days, then we can’t engage with anything.
Take parenting. How many of the decisions that you’ve made as a parent have been because you read about it on a blog, or on Facebook, or in an article you linked to on Twitter? I know I have tried a million and one parenting tips that I’ve clicked through to while meaning to look at someone’s wedding photos. The trouble is, that these articles don’t know you. And they don’t know your child, or your circumstances, or the rest of your family. They don’t account for your cultural heritage, the ghosts in your nursery, or the values that really really matter the most to you.
Information is useful, yes. But the information that comes from within you is the most important thing you have. Don’t let it be drowned out.