The ever present means of connection to everything through the proliferation of fixed and mobile devices and the ever increasing speed of connection is transforming human communications at an unprecedented rate.
The noosphere is an expression used by the French theologian Teilhard de Chardin in the mid 20th century to prophetically describe the global interaction of human minds which he saw as coming about even from his observation of the comparatively primitive means of connection available in his day.
Today we have a global web of communication which gives rise to something of a collective human consciousness unprecedented in history. The technology bringing this about is irreversible and one could not wish that the position be otherwise. But we need to be aware of what we are in danger of losing through such a valuable gain, namely our ability to concentrate.
There is what is known in Buddhism as the enlightened quality of mindful concentration, a quality essential if people are to achieve anything worthwhile on a personal, business or societal level. The possibility of constant interruption to concentrated thought is a very real virus of our time which must be diagnosed, treated, respected and held in quarantine.
If we look back through human history we cannot but be impressed at the inventiveness and creativity displayed by people who had nothing approaching the access to information which we have today. Just think of the amazing engineering projects of the past and the discovery and utilisation of processes and forces unseen, such as radio waves and electricity, as an indication of what can be achieved through the concentrated effort of the human mind.
Today there is a progressive lowering of the human attention span particularly among the young, This is illustrated most vividly by the perceived need for frequent and constant change of visual imagery and angles especially in the field of advertising.
So how can we harness the benefits of social media and this always-on and ever-present connectivity? The solution has to be through a process of self-disciplined focus-setting involving a refusal to be diverted from the task in hand by the many interruptions to which all our lives are potentially subject.
Some ideas that might help:
- Begin each day by doing in the first place that which you have set out to do, preferably by having set that as an ongoing priority, or a special priority decided upon the night before.
- It is always tempting to turn your attention from the essential difficult -important to the trivial or to the pressing-but-less-important if these distractions are given a chance to break in upon the work in hand, so, stick to the important.
- The time spent on social media which has a work connection should be restricted and should be allocated to a period later in the day when energy levels are lower. Important work should take priority when energy levels are higher. This will depend on each person’s own body clock but generally will be the start rather than the end of the working day.
- Social media for personal purposes has a value but the time given to it should be seriously restricted. There is a good argument for concentrating passive recreational activity such as this to one short weekly unbroken period of time and strictly outside working hours. After all this will seldom be found to be a matter of life or death.
- Remember to help your resolve in all this by going to your control panels and de-activating the relevant notifications on your computers, smartphones and tablets. Otherwise these will pop up all the time and it is difficult not to be tempted to take “just a quick look”. Disproportionate time is lost getting back to the job in hand following even a short interruption and you don’t want to invite interruptions.
- With BYOD (bring your own device) becoming an increasing reality in the workplace the distinction between work and free time is becoming more difficult to maintain. It is best to move the social media icons so that they will not appear on the home screen of your mobile devices. Otherwise you will be distracted by all those little numbers calling out for your attention. You would not allow your working day to be disrupted by a constant flow of unexpected callers. Yet we seem to encourage even more disruption provided it comes in this fascinating electronic form.
In all this remember the need for a work-life balance. Long ago we were all promised a life of increasing leisure to be brought about by our machines. Today it seems people who have work are working longer and harder with their gadgets making it possible to remain connected to work at all times, even on vacation. Few will say at the end of a life that they wish they had spent more time at their work. But that is a thought for another day. Until then enjoy the connectivity but please don’t jump to attention on hearing the beeps!