Transforming Infomania into Infomagical: A new campaign by WNYC to “reestablish sanity in a technologically crazed world”
Winding through a few podcasts that I have been meaning to catch up on this week (I love listening to podcasts while I take walks), I stumbled upon an interview with Manoush Zomorodi, the host and editor of “Note to Self,” a podcast I had never listened to. In her interview, Zomorodi introduced the audience to the WNYC social science study the staff of “Note to Self,” along with several academic partners, had launched in January 2016.
(The full link to the site and the study can be found here: http://project.wnyc.org/infomagical/)
The experiment, which bills itself as a “digital literacy campaign on steroids,” was created as an attempt to demonstrate to tech-obsessed individuals that they can stem the tide of information streaming towards them from millions of websites, apps, social media platforms, TV shows and (yes) even podcasts. Developed in response to the panicky, distracted sensation that so many Americans feel at the end of a day spent “connected” through their various tech devices, the experiment tasks listeners to practice single-mindedness, quiet reflection, and task-orientated use of technology.
“Note to Self” asked listeners to sign up and pick a goal, and then they were issued five daily challenges — “each task designed to cut through the information overload and help you think more clearly.” The five challenges include things like spending a day only single-tasking, web-surfing only with intention, and spending a day connecting in-person with people around them.
The two podcasts that bookend the week-long study are very well-crafted, well-researched, and really fun to listen to, with various experts weighing in on the effects of digital overload and making the case for working to do less with our brains. I will not attempt to summarize; rather if you are interested in the specifics of project, I recommend that you spend one hour listening to them yourself. (You can even break the golden rule and multitask, like I did, and take a long walk while you listen.)
The first episode can be found at this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/note-to-self/id561470997?mt=2&i=361289565 and the last episode at this link:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/note-to-self/id561470997?mt=2&i=362580738
However, I will say this about the brilliant experiment: I find it shocking and disturbing how much of themselves so many of the people around me have ceded to their online lives. I certainly feel less connected to these frantic souls who can never seem to keep up with the demands their phone makes on them and I can only imagine how they feel themselves. Calling attention to the downsides of all this connectedness is important and laudable.
Caveat: I have to admit that I have a very, very limited online presence. Other than this blog and my email account I have no other online “selves.” I am on no social media sites and I only follow a handful of blogs (many on WordPress who also follow me, so thanks!). This is all a conscious decision, not a “I can’t figure that website out” sort of decision. For the most part, I do not want to be more connected, more current, or more up-to-date. In a life that is already busy with the physical demands of work, home, children, spouse, and self, I am loathe to add any more mental demands to my life, especially the false ones crafted by social media or the entertainment industry.
What I really want more of in my life is to do less; to sit and reflect; to contemplate and discuss deep things with my husband; or to hike through the woods with my children. Of course, as this blog will attest, I also want to spend a large amount of my free time reading books. I have made a decision that empty demands on my time — web-surfing, watching too much TV, scrolling through social media sites — come at too high a cost: namely, the elimination of time and energy for the things I really love. As a result, I may seem extremely unhip (my tech-savvy sister who lives in San Francisco — upon learning I still check out DVDs from the library — called me, lovingly, “a dinosaur”) and I may miss out on a few important events in the lives of my friends who are on FB, but I have so much more control of my head space than I would otherwise. Quite honestly, those consequences are not game changing.
All that aside, I find the podcast “Note to Self” to be a real gem and the project they have created to be not only entertaining but important. Every one of us can benefit from focusing more, doing less, and striving towards that things us happy. Being alone, knowing ourselves, and nourishing our minds with joyful activities whenever possible: I strongly feel that those are noble goals we all should reach toward, and I resoundingly congratulate anyone who uses their platform to champion those values.