A Fake Sense of Urgency

False Urgency

We are constantly bombarded with information. We get text messages, social media alerts, and emails that we feel need to be attended to. It’s hard to ignore a ringing phone or beeping alert. Our devices can seem to hold us prisoner. We are at their beck and call. But is this a good thing?

In Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle writes, “Our devices compel us because we respond to every search and every new piece of information (and every new text) as though it had the urgency of a threat in the wild. So stimulation by what is new (and social) draws us toward some immediate goal. But daydreaming moves us toward the longer term. It helps us develop the base for a stable self and helps us come up with new solutions. To mentor for innovation we need to convince people to slow things down, let their minds wander, and take time alone.”

Some people are so accustomed to sharing everything. They don’t even pause to think about it.

“A fourteen-year-old girl sums up her feelings about spending an hour on Facebook: “Even if it is just seeing the ‘likes’ on things I posted, I feel that I’ve accomplished something.” What has she accomplished? Time on Facebook makes a predictable outcome (if you post a likeable photograph you will get ‘likes’) feel like an achievement. Online, we become accustomed to the idea of nearly guaranteed results, something that the ups and downs of solitude can’t promise. And, of course, time with people can’t promise either.”

I wrote about the power of boredom a while back. Turkle makes some great points about that in her book. However, it is hard to be bored if the moment it happens, we reach for our phone. There is a value on boredom that is being lost due to our love, and obsession with, technology.

Even worse, we are creating a fake version of ourselves when we post to our various social media accounts.

Sherry Turkle writes, “With this sensibility we risk building a false self, based on performances we think others will enjoy. In Thoreau’s terms, we live too ‘thickly,’ responding to the world around rather than first learning to know ourselves.”

And sometimes, what we share isn’t even authentic.

“Although Melissa uses Facebook as a substitute for her journal (she says, ‘It’s easier”), she is less honest on the digital page. She says that when she wrote in her journal, she felt as if she was writing for herself. When she switched to Facebook, she went into ‘performance’ mode She shares her thoughts, but she also thinks how they will ‘play.’ Melissa says that sometimes when she wrote in her journal, she had fantasies of other people finding and reading it someday, but her fantasies put that day far in the future—they didn’t really influence what she wrote.

What she writes on Facebook, however, is designed to make her popular now.

So Melissa wrote a pleasing profile for Facebook, one that reflected the person she wanted to be, her aspirational self. She said things that would draw people toward her. And when she does her daily sharing, she is selective. . . . Melissa only wants to publish good news.”

What is the point?

I am starting to second-think my use of social media. Unfortunately for me, there is value in it to promote my DJ business and radio show. But there are so many negatives as well. I feel the need to respond to everything. I also have a slight fear of missing out on something cool. The urgency of it all is quite compelling. Maybe that is the point, but we need to step back and truly examine what is, and isn’t urgent.