Friday, October 8, 2010
Use It Or Lose It
I worry sometimes that we modern people are relying too much on our various glowing screens to do our thinking for us. Instead of exercising our problem solving capacities we are turning to google at the first sign of difficulty. We watch hours and hours of other people's fictional or "real" lives on TV, instead of entertaining ourselves or living our own adventures. I've heard that the human brain is more active in sleep than when watching television and I believe it.
The focus of our lives seems to be increasingly "virtual", and, as I say in my song "Virtual", "Virtual means almost, but not." I think the virtual world is great and can be an incredible tool in life. But only as long as the physical world is the real one and the virtual one is its shadow. When this is reversed and the physical world becomes the shadow of a person's "real" virtual world, then the trouble starts.
This is because we are adapted to live in the physical world and our bodies are most healthy when we interact regularly with the physical world. In other words, without being judgmental, if you spend more time on-line or or on TV, than off, you are getting less and less healthy. As we let computers solve more and more of our daily problems, our brains lose their capacity for thinking and we lose the capacity to solve them ourselves.
And, since we live in the physical world, being distracted by our virtual worlds can be dangerous. The consequences of inattention in the virtual world? You miss an email or lose a video game. The consequences of inattention in the physical world can be fatal. I ride my bike everyday and I have to be constantly on guard for people on their phones, driving or walking, who do dangerously inattentive things. Every now and then I notice that every single person in my view, inside or outside of a car, is on or looking at their phones.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. When I'm recording an album, I'm on a serious budget. I can't afford more than a take or two of each song. Messing up a lyric means starting over. So instead of depending on my memory, I'll bring in my song lyrics on paper to read while I'm singing. This is to ensure that I'll get them right and not have to do another take. What I notice happening is that while I'm recording the song, I let go of the part of my brain that knows the lyrics and I become temporarily dependent on that lyric sheet. If I've typed the wrong lyric down, chances are I'll just sing what's there. Or if I glance away from the sheet, my mind is blank and I mess up the song. My memory has become "external", committed to that sheet of paper.
This is something I do intentionally to save money and time when recording. I think if I brought lyric sheets for all of my songs to all of my shows, pretty soon I'd be lost without those lyrics sheets. I would have an atrophied memory capacity. And this is what I fear is happening to more and more people. I notice their distress when they lose or accidentally leave their phones at home. I've even heard people say, "I'd be lost without my phone."
I heartily recommend any activity which demands thinking and problem solving. Even crossword puzzles. One thing good about the virtual world is that due to facebook and other networking sites, people are writing more. Writing can be a real problem solving activity, but only if you care enough about what you write to want to find the best words you can find to say what you want to say, if you're thinking about and taking your words seriously. I suggest that before you hit the "share" button, ask yourself if you've what you've typed is the best way to say what you're trying to say. If not, make it at least a little better before you hit that button. You'll be exercising your brain a bit and being more clear in your communications, both of which will serve you well in life.
And every now and then, give yourself a Cell Phone Free, or Computer Free day.