Man surrounded by lots of thoughts

8765.81. The number of hours in a year, give or take. It’s the same for all of us. We’re told to “use our time wisely – carpe diem”. But who’s to say what ‘wisely’ means; how do we decide and make our choices?

Did you know, it’s widely held the average UK citizen sees 300-700 marketing messages a day, bombarding them with lifestyle directives, information snippets and opinion – click this, try that, be careful, get fit, protect yourself, get richer, we’re all doomed, no, wait – we’re actually OK; left foot, right foot – noise, blah, #stop!

The song ‘World Spins Madly On’ by The Weepies has recently been on my mind, and it’s got me thinking about how our brains are so overloaded with information these days. We’re continually having to adapt and evolve to keep up and cope.

The Google Effect

Some call this the ‘Google effect’: with a world of information at our fingertips, we’re increasingly less likely to retain what we see – we’re relying on Google to store knowledge for us, instead of our own brains. In fact our brains may slowly be forgetting how to store information. If you’re like me, you really don’t want this to happen!

Our brains are changing

The internet and our constant consumption of digital information could literally be changing our brains. Some people go as far as to suggest we’re slowly forgetting how to think and rationalise for ourselves, relying upon—whether we realise it or not—digital sound bytes to influence our opinions, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to quietly direct our way. Picture that – the way ahead dictated by the digital footprints we’re leaving behind and around ourselves. It’s happening, whether we like it or not.

And, as the digital noise swells

At the same time, we’re apparently becoming more restless, dissatisfied and anxious – as the digital noise swells, so we’re increasingly searching for always-on entertainment, and questioning our identity and purpose – Phantom Ringing Syndrome, Nomophobia, Cybersickness, Facebook Depression, Internet Addiction Disorder, Online Gaming Addiction and Cyberchondria are all example conditions of the internet age.

Living off-grid

This has no doubt been part responsible for the increased interest in things like yoga, mindfulness and living off-grid, as people seek to escape the digital stress and frenetic lifestyles we’ve brought upon ourselves. Can we reverse the changes that have already happended?

The Millennials

I read an interesting article in .NET entitled How to Improve Your Life By Learning From Millennials. If you’re a ‘Boomer’ or ‘GenXer’ then you were around before the internet went mainstream, and have therefore lived through its introduction and interruption. You’ve had to learn to ’embrace digital’, whereas Millenials have never known a reality without it.

Perhaps we can learn from them, particularly in the areas of stress and distractedness.

A few standout lessons…

Sharing is more important than owning – relationships and connectedness is more important than individual knowledge and skills.

Be fearless – have the courage to take a stand and approach things your own way.

Embrace work-life balance – learn how to live and enjoy the small moments in life.

There are more – take a look at the article.

Digitally disconnected silence

This presents us with a quandary – if we’re truly to use our time wisely, seize the day and achieve a lasting (not fleeting) sense of happiness and accomplishment, we first need to understand what genuinely makes us happy. Only you can figure that one out.

Don’t listen to the digital hype, in fact make time to specifically shut it out. Spending time with just yourself is often where it starts – back to basics, back to what makes you you. Some might call this ‘going analogue’. It can feel scary at first – you may find yourself habitually drawn to check your email, watch some TV, absorb yourself with Facebook or Twitter… anything but embrace the digitally disconnected silence. But it’s a good place to learn to be… “carpe diem” and all that.

The world will always spin madly on, and I for one am useless when it comes to disconnecting. On that note, I’ll end by suggesting this: we should all learn to opt-out once in a while.