We Have Become Too Much An Information Consumption Culture

It’s very easy to get distracted while on the Internet. Check your e-mail, check your Facebook, see a video, leads to another video, leads to a website, leads to a funny picture that you need to message to a friend, and before you know it you’ve lost fifteen minutes that otherwise could have been very productive. The video below illustrates this well:

Fifteen minutes may not seem like a lot, but when you start adding up that time, it becomes pretty significant. And then how much do we really get done? All great things in life have been due to the creative minds of the people who created them. Electricity, great works of art, the automobile, the telephone, and yes, even the Internet. But these discoveries took A LOT of thinking, creativity, and imagination. These creators did not pull their inventions from their butts. They worked hard and smart in order to create something marvelous and beautiful or something useful. Either way, they created things that had high value that the greater population appreciated.

Though there are still many creators out there, we have become a consumption culture. We consume a lot of information, most of it useless information, throughout our days. We watch things or read things that provide little value to us. We consume and consume and consume and consume and we no longer take the time to create.

A little consumption is okay of course. If you had a long day at work, it’s completely valid to tune into your favorite TV show an hour each night. A TV binge is also valid once in a while. But if we spend all of our free time watching hours of TV or spend hours online doing nothing productive, that is time we don’t get back! It is donezo. Gone forever. When all that time could have been spent creating something, we used it up in useless consumption.

It’s super important to be aware of our time. We spend hours on the Internet and then complain that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Many people say they don’t have the time to exercise, but we all have the time to exercise! The tricky part is making the time and how we spend our time. This is where the battle between creation and consumption comes into play. Are we going to create something for ourselves? Are we going to learn something new, work on our bodies, eat healthy? Or are we going to let the hours fly away on useless consumption.

Like I said before, a little consumption is good. Even the greatest of creators needed to relax and take a breather every once and awhile. But it’s important to not get reeled into the consumption. Otherwise, it’s just an endless cycle that can last a long time. Be constructive with your time and create something, even if it is just a two- line poem. If we are productive with our time, then everyone benefits in the long term. If we consume our time with mindless things, we may benefit in the short term, but no one benefits in the long term.

Do you believe we are a consumption culture? What are the good and bad sides if we are?

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Moving from being a consumption culture to being a creative one is nearly impossible, I think. For individuals, however, it is very possible and requires, first of all, self-awareness—what the Buddhists call mindfulness.

The use of digital devices separates us from the mindful self. Once we put those devices down, we can reclaim the mindful self—though, as with other interrupted activities, it can take awhile.

This morning I read a thoughtful Wall Street Journal article (yes, there of all places) on gratitude and cultivating it in children. It made me realize how far we have left this core value behind in our rush to acquire things, “succeed,” and be “someone.”

Creating vs. consuming, being mindful vs. being distracted, expressing gratitude for what we have vs. demanding what we don’t have—we need to do these things without thought of recompense. For ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, the benefits will be great.

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Reducing consumption of bad things is important, and so is increasing the consumption of good things. That in essence is what I think all of humane tech is trying to achieve.

How can we go from a war for attention and surveillance capitalism, to a healthier and stimulating future?

The world has endless problems like pollution, sickness and lack of opportunity, yet we’re currently spending our efforts chasing the eyeballs and wallets of the richest 10% of people in the world rather than actually doing very much to make the world a better place for everyone to live.

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Thanks for your comment, Pat! Gratitude and being thankful for what we have instead of dwelling on what we don’t is so important nowadays. Your comment is a healthy reminder to breathe, take in our surroundings, and acknowledge how fortunate we are.

This is so true! I believe much of our society is stuck worrying about the problems instead of solving the problems. While it’s very important to be aware of the not-so-good things going on, we should be expending our energy into finding solutions.