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The Attention Thieves

There’s a war for your attention. And you’re probably losing it. - Vox

Today, boredom is an option. To the extent that boredom is a lack of stimulation, we have cured it, and this isn’t necessarily a good thing. If you can endure boredom, you can devote yourself to deep and serious projects. If you can’t endure boredom, how do you write a book or enter into reflection?

Some of the "war for attention" discussed in the piece revolves around things like advertising, but also encompasses social media, which has been turned by its creators into an attention thief — the better to monetize you.

One of the boons of practicing meditation is that you become far more conscious of when you're "just spacing out" — sitting there idly scrolling or clicking with no specific purpose in mind. You educate yourself forcefully in the flavor of this feeling, and so you become all the more aware of indulging in it. I still have an idle half an hour here and there where I paw through whatever YouTube thinks I find interesting — and their guesses are hilariously wrong, I have to say — but I think I'm a lot less distractable than I was even five years ago.

Meditation was a big part of it, but another significant slice came from acclimating myself to the understanding that social media was designed to be like a slot machine, and that no matter how many times I jerked that handle, my life wasn't going to magically become any more interesting than it already was.

I think a lot of our need to struggle against boredom would evaporate if we stopped dreading it with the intensity we reserve for death or crippling illnesses. I don't think this means we would all suddenly become content to do nothing but look at walls all day long, though. I do think that it means in situations where we have no choice but to do that, we'd be a good deal better prepared for the experience than we are now.

As someone else once said, "It's not like anything has to happen. That's just us."

Tags: meditation  psychology  social media  sociology 

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Previous: Get On With It

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2018/02/12 08:00.

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