An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of December 13, 2015
Issued from Hacienda Chichen beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, Yucatán, MÉXICO

ADDICTED TO DISTRACTION

Eric in Mérida directed us to Tony Schwartznov's recent article in the New York Times entitled "Addicted to Distraction." You can freely access it here.

Schwartznov quotes a study finding that the average white-collar worker spends about six hours a day on email, and that's not counting time spent online shopping, searching and keeping up with social media. He sees such obsessive behavior as a kind of addiction, and explains it in terms of the brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification, all combined with the “compulsion loop.” An example of a compulsion loop is when lab rats and drug addicts need more and more to achieve the same effect.

One result is what experts call "cognitive overload," resulting in our losing our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory. It’s as if our brains were full cups of water where anything more poured into them spills out. Our minds fill with so much trivia that we lose touch with deeper meanings, and become too distracted to notice more important things in the first place.

Overcoming Internet addiction might be harder to deal with than other addictions. Schwartznov found it so in his life, and it was the same with me when I spent my teen years so addicted to ham radio as WA4PGA that I never dated until my twenties, or otherwise learned basic social skills; I spent all my teen years compulsively tapping out Morse Code.

Ham radio and the Internet are alike in that they are both forms of communication and socialization, plus a little learning content . With this in mind, I remember that the Six Miracles of Nature outlined at http://www.backyardnature.net/j/6/ suggest that the whole evolutionary flow of the Universe is toward ever higher states of interconnected mentality -- in "communication, socialization and learning," we might say.

On a metaphysical level, it's as if the goal of the Universe's evolution trends toward becoming something like a universal brain composed of thinking, feeling beings communicating with one another -- like neurons in a physical brain. The tug in that direction, in my experience, can be almost overwhelming. Well, this Newsletter and these words flow in that current.

A problem with the situation is the inescapable fact that hours spent before an electronic screen are hours not spent sensitizing ourselves to, and learning from, Nature. And Nature's most important influence, it seems to me, is to impart to the disciple reverence for life, diversity, and sustainability.

And just imagine what everyday life could be like if all us thinking, feeling beings were to redirect energies spent feeding our addictions toward championing life, diversity, and sustainability.