A Moment of Absorption

A Moment of Absorption

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, "The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention". In a technology driven world where our attention span is shorter than ever, this has become more than an annoyance. Not only is lack of attention adversely effecting relationships, as citizens we are becoming less informed than ever. Most of us are unable or unwilling to acquire and process information that does not fit in a sound byte or a tweet. That has consequences.

You might have heard about The Paradox of Choice. The argument there is that having too many choices causes anxiety in consumers. The validity of that argument is still being debated. What no one seems to be looking into is whether or not choice is a good thing to begin with. It's not the stress of having to choose from too many things, it's 'always having the choice to choose' that might be the problem.

Today, we have 200+ channels on television to choose from. Thousands of "On-Demand" movies and shows we can watch whenever we want. And, the Internet can be thought of as millions of On-Demand channels. I would argue that choice inevitably leads to what can be best described as 'information bubbles'. Now imagine a time when television had one or only a few channels. Let's assume you are not into wildlife documentaries. If there is only one channel to watch and a documentary is on, your choice is either to turn the TV set off, or sit through the documentary. If you do sit through it, you might actually learn something or even discover that you like wildlife documentaries after all. But, with millions of On-Demand channels, you will never be forced to sit through a documentary, or randomly stumble upon ideas and information that are outside of your past-defined "interests".

Always having the choice to choose, rather than expand, actually narrows our interests and our perception of the world. It might also be responsible for the loss of our attention spans. When we are stuck in our own information bubbles, and we're readily conditioned to process only short tidbits of information, constantly moving from one choice to the other, one channel to the other, we are unable to "offer anyone our attention". In order to have a moment of absorption, we have to stop choosing and just let things happen.

Note: The filter bubbles of Internet search engines only reinforce 'information bubbles'.
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