Social media and the idle mind

Due to this constant bombardment of information, the attention span of the current millennial is dwindling day by day
Last Updated 23 November 2022, 05:33 IST

The era of valuable information underwent a massive transformation when digital devices landed in our hands. The introduction of social media brought drastic changes to the way we functioned. The classic agenda of any social media app was to connect people of all kinds from different parts of the world and enable them to publish personal memories or opinions.

Now it also brings in the need to be in constant touch with one another in real-time through the ‘stories’ feature in most of the apps. There is seldom any room for quiet thinking during the day. The happenings of our distant friends, celebrities, and acquaintances seem to be taking up a lot of our quiet headspace. Is it necessary to be constantly in touch with the world and our social circles in real-time through digital mediums?

If we observe the Japanese culture closely, they love folding their clothes in a particular way, they like keeping the spaces in their home in a defined order, and they like to take care of their household chores mindfully. Most of these activities are external, tangible, and haptic, which involve physicality and movement.

In the smartphone world, we are often harsh on ourselves when ‘idle time’ creeps into our minds during our work routine. There is a lurking need to fill these idle time gaps with a browsing session of numerous ‘story’ updates from the people we follow.

Due to this constant bombardment of information, the attention span of the current millennial is dwindling day by day. In today’s ‘content creation’ world, the forceful capture of attention within 60 seconds is forcing budding minds, artists, film-makers, and musicians to constantly reinvent their creative practice. It forces content creators to publish material as if they were producing goods in a factory.

The need for immediate exhibition and instant gratification distracts us from understanding the evolution of our own creative processes. A creative practice and the means to this practice matures only with time and experience.

The film producer pitches an idea to a music director, saying, “I want a trending song.” When asked about the context of the song, there appears to be a blank stare on the producer’s face. The artist’s creative boundaries are limited to ‘trend-friendly’ hashtags. The audience bingeing on this fast food loses track of how to judge so much content, letting the algorithms do the talking for them.

Social media helps put the world’s eyes on our work. It is also a democratic space, allowing people of any background to showcase their opinions. In 1955, under John Huston’s recommendation, Satyajit Ray managed to send a print of his first directorial Pather Panchali for premiering at MOMA, New York. This motivated him to make more films.

A global eye on your work is always a new learning for the maker. However, on the flip side, the social media space is quick to judge your work with a spew of
comments, likes, or shares within minutes of publishing your work.

There is no room left to ruminate on the after-thoughts of the experience of your work. Constantly being too engrossed in calibrating towards new standards of recognition or channels of attention in the social media space can disorient us from finding purpose.

Once the work is completed, there should be enough time and space for the artist and the work of art to understand each other. The
work of art must understand the artist too. This always takes time.

An idle mind does not always mean a non-productive mind. It is an open state of mind that invites external experiences informing us of the world in unique ways. It also invites us to reshuffle our memories, deal with real-world problems, and prioritise our realistic goals. Since the dawn of the internet, we have constantly been in a state of reducing information pathways about our external environments. Human-to-human interactions have dropped drastically.

It is good to remember that every second we spend on the app exploring someone else’s story could be used to build our own if we make the extra effort to step out into the real world and learn from it. It is okay to pause and
be ignorant in this data-driven world. It is completely alright to be singled out for being different and stepping out of the bubble.

We need to give ourselves ample time to battle the questions that trouble us and initiate a private dialogue with our real-world experiences. This enables us to build robust narratives that sustain and shape our communities.

There goes the old saying, “An idle brain is the devil’s workshop.” In the current times, we could reinterpret the same and say, “A digitally idle brain is an angel’s safe haven.”

(The author is a Bengaluru-based writer and musician.)

(Published 22 November 2022, 17:18 IST)

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