Friday, March 2, 2012

Wait Time: The Agony & The Ecstasy

Last night I was watching the news and there was a segment called "Impatient Nation." The newsman said that "we live our lives in fast forward" and that according to a study done by Google, the average American will wait no more than 250 milliseconds for an answer. They were comparing today's understanding of patience with the days of Jane Eyre where the protagonist waits months for a letter. I have not read the book since high school so I don't remember this part, but it's beside the point. Forget waiting for an answer, if I'm not entertained in a sufficient amount of time I change the channel or flip to one of the other handful of websites I like to check and being part of the blogging world makes that endless. I could spend an entire afternoon just catching up on blogs I like to read or sites I like to check out. I flip back and forth between reading odd stories and stories so devastating, I never get to the end. The immediate access of information, entertainment and distraction has not only shortened my attention span and depleted my sense of patience, but it has made the truly devastating intolerable. Why should I read the entire story about that high school shooting in Ohio? Why should I read the entire article about what's happening with the GOP primaries? There is something more entertaining, more uplifting, more mind-numbing two clicks away. Why watch the news when TMZ is telling me about Zac Efron dropping a condom on the red carpet?

Tonight I watched a snippet of the news, all these kids, so brokenhearted mourning three of their own, wondering why they were spared? Why their friends were dead? Why bad things happen? I flip to a sitcom. I get bored of the sitcom, think these jokes are not funny. I flip back and  see snippets of the tornado damage throughout the midwest. I hear a daughter cry about how her parents have "been together forever" while all that remains of their home is a cookie jar and one wall of a kitchen, the drapes still hanging, the sky as their ceiling. Another sitcom, another lame joke. Another shooting, three teens shot outside of a Burger King in Queens just a couple of hours ago. I flip. I change. I hop online.

I have an addictive personality. I bite my fingernails. I pick at my face. I used to smoke cigarettes in college, something I eternally am regretful of, but I was by myself in New York City and I wore big black boots and I thought I looked pretty bad ass, but I digress. For someone like me, who already has the tendency for odd addictions (I used to obsessively collect vintage postcards. Like, if I found a rack of old black and white prints in some novelty shop, I would HAVE to buy one of each. Somewhere in a shoebox I have hundreds of postcards, mainly of old movie stars and rock legends.) the pace of today's world greases by ADD wheels. My job is very sedentary, and there can be quite a bit of downtime, which I fill with checking my email, Facebook, blogging on my personal blog, reading blogs, reading the news and odd stories, blogging on my other blog, doing freelance work, all the while never sitting with one task too long.

I read scripts and books as a freelance job on the side which requires me to write a type of book report at the end. I have noticed that where I used to just sit down and write the report all the way through, (sometimes all 20 pages of it) now I can barely get through a paragraph before "checking something." And now that I have a smartphone, forget it. I think this is part of the reason I was having anxiety issues in November and December (that linked with too much caffeine, did I tell you I have an addictive personality?) Lately I've been feeling those rumblings again and Monday's commute home after a rare afternoon coffee, was no picnic.  I have already been trying to slow myself down. Cut out caffeine. Don't check my email every time I turn on my phone and I even stopped looking for new emails on my phone. I longed for the days when I had to be sitting down somewhere to read and respond to an email. Email is one of the most brilliant, most convenient inventions ever and we still thought of a way to make it faster!!! My addictive tendencies, which right now lean towards technology, coupled with my instincts to react to problems that are not mine, can and will make me crazy if I do not learn how to harness the beast (myself) inside this other beast (Impatient Nation).  I have come to understand multi-tasking as being "productive." Which, while it can be, also means I am never fully devoting my attention to any one thing. So while I may be "productive" what is the final "product" am I producing?

I have been trying to slow it down...with everything. I've been trying to strip away. If I get an email, does it warrant a response? How soon do I have to send that response? Why do I have to be on other people's time? Or the bigger question: what exactly is my time? I'm so used to "doing" instead of "pausing." So used to committing before thinking if it is possible. I'm used to reacting, responding quickly, rather than absorbing, sitting with something, figuring out how and what I really feel. To thine own self be true. This has been the first week in two years where I didn't make at least one plan after work and you know what I discovered? I LOVE coming home after work. Not only that, but when I come home after work, I can actually stay on top of keeping it clean. I can enjoy my apartment which we pay quite dearly for. But I have to be careful, because being home makes me think I can now "relax" and before I know it, I have the television on and the computer in my lap. I kept trying to start this blogpost and realized that if I turned the tv off, maybe something would come. Sure enough...

I'm starting a movement. A sssslllllllllooooooowwwwwww movement. One that makes me focus on one task at a time. One that makes me pause, write a note to myself to get back to something instead of making a quick decision I will later regret or default on. I am going to try to strip away the stimulants, cut down on my internet time, get back to writing my book, give myself an hour of nothing before going to bed. If we really are living in fast forward, if we rewind it just a little bit, might we find ourselves in the present?

4 comments:

daleboca said...

I could not agree more with you. Maybe you could switch your chip into a old non email phone sometimes to not always be on? I hear (and feel) everything you are saying.

SteveB said...

Great post -- and I think so many of us feel overwhelmed by both information -- and instant feedback (both the getting and the giving of it).

My only New Year's Resolution-y thing this year has been to become a mono-tasker. When I'm writing something, that's what I'm doing. When I'm replying to an email, that's what I'm doing. No more open tabs or checking the blinking phone-light.

For those, I've set aside times to "canvass" my feeds. That's when I get information in -- and then they get hidden again. It's worked pretty well, but it's surprisingly tough.

Carmen said...

nice post.

Lindsey said...

Thanks for such great comments. I especially love the idea of being a mono-tasker!