TV is Not Enough

TV Static“[Nielsen's] report for 2009′s fourth quarter, which tracked viewing across TV, the Internet and mobile phones, found a 35 percent rise in the amount of time Americans used the TV and Internet simultaneously compared with the same quarter in 2008.” - The New York Times

I do it all the time. Actually, I rarely watch TV without the computer or my phone right in front of me. And this habit started relatively recently.

I remember when I would sit on the couch and just watch TV for a few hours in the evening. Sometimes, my viewing would consist of just flipping through the channels. I could never decide on a program that was good enough to watch all the way through. Some evenings, I would know exactly what I was going to watch, pay close attention to the show and turn off the TV when it was through.

Nowadays, I never watch a show without taking a moment to check my email or browse the web. And from the sounds of that New York Times article, I am not alone.

We are training our brains to constantly be on the look out for new information. Which may be the way that they have always worked. But now, we are able to get the information whenever we want to.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Keeping updated with what is going on in the world, or your job or just your group of friends can be very helpful. People who come up with these new technologies don’t do it just to distract us. There are legitimate needs that Facebook, email, blogging, RSS feeds all address. The issue is that the frequency that we get all this information has the potential to be overwhelming.

Leo over at Zen Habits talks about this all the time.  And one of his suggestions is to drop the news feeds. But I don’t think that is necessary. As long as I understand that the those feeds are taking attention away from other things and if I am okay with my attention being focused on those feeds, then what is the problem?

This is almost the complete opposite of the post I made last week. That post spoke of times when my attention is on nothing in my current environment. Now I am talking about times when my current environment is taking all my attention. The common thread is knowing where my attention is focused. Both scenarios are fine as long as I am mindful of what I am thinking about and what the implications are.

Photo courtesy of futureatlas.com 

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