OK, I’m sorry. I don’t get. Maybe if I were a celebrity with groupies I would. But, I’m not. I really don’t care that you’re “getting on the plane right now” or that you’re “using side-by-side bathtubs on your slide” or that your “buddy picked up your Starbucks” or that you are “up early doing your email” or or or. It’s not that the person who’s up early to do his email isn’t wonderful. It’s not that I am mean spirited and don’t care about people. It’s just that I’m not interested in knowing that’s someone’s doing his email or putting bathtubs on slides. The endless stream of random thoughts and comments spewing across the virtual worlds of my computer and mobile are disturbances of attention and let’s face it. I don’t need any help. Losing attention is something I can do quite nicely all by myself.
It is hard to focus on one thing. It’s hard to empty your mind and just be. The myriad of fleeting thoughts easily grab your attention; but, it is not inevitable that they do. Like anything concentration is something learned. And once you learn it, it becomes more natural. That doesn’t mean that all those spontaneous thoughts evaporate; they don’t. But it is easier to just acknowledge them and refocus your attention.
I can’t believe people are really interested in the millions of inconsequential and fleeting thoughts and mundane activities in my day. That I’m doing my email is not, I suspect, of much interest since everyone does her email or her texting or her twittering or her whatever. That doesn’t mean that I don’t seek to share what I find meaningful and hope others find it meaningful, too. Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps what I think is meaningful, others find to be a disturbance of attention and vice versa. Maybe someone’s day is made all the better by knowing that so-and-so is doing his email early this morning.
You never know what will turn out to be meaningful. Sometimes a bright idea comes to you hidden in the stream of mindless chatter that seeks to disturb your attention. I’m not sure what mechanism is at work, but in acknowledging the thought, you just know that it is one to hang onto.
The lack of context can also be a problem. Let’s say I am talking with a colleague about a presentation he’s building. He says, ” I’m using these side-by-side bathtubs to convey blah, blah, blah… What do you think?” Then OK, I’d be interested and eager to give him my opinion. But maybe when just thrown out there the context gets lost because the circle of friends is so big; what’s meaningful to one friend is simply vacuous to another. Without the context the bathtubs do nothing for me. But, for someone with the context they can be meaningful.
Or perhaps, people just need to say, “I’m here! Notice me!” And with Twitter and Facebook they can do just that: Get noticed. Perhaps these are teasers designed to draw friends into conversation. Not that I’ve seen that happen; maybe it happens off-line or in some other virtual forum. Sometimes people will comment, but that’s usually a dead end. The author has already moved on to another random thought or has simply left the room, leaving the comment to dangle there in cyberspace. Sometimes people vote “like.” If you don’t vote does that mean you dislike it? Or that you’re just not interested? or that you’re not paying attention? Do the people sharing actually hope for votes of approval?
Or perhaps, once in awhile, it is a shout out to the group to say, “Hey, this is important. Look at this. Read this. Do this.” A couple of times I have authored one of these. Once for Kiva and another time for Playing for Change. No one bit. No votes, no comments. Nada. But at least I put some of my passion out there. Maybe someone in my group just took it in and acted; maybe they just ignored it. What matters is that it was important to me; I had a virtual bullhorn and I used it.
So, what to do? Scan. When I was a kid I remember a neighbor who never left her house–not to go to work, not do the shopping, not to go to church, not to visit friends, not even to go on vacation. Her only connection with the world outside her home was her telephone and the police scanner. All day and all night that scanner squawked. She loved it. It was always in the background. I never saw her really pay attention to it. But, she always knew about everything going on in our little town. It connected her and made her important because she was in the know. That scanner was her everything and through it she happily lived her life.
So, is this just one-sided meaningless banter? Or are these little gems of wisdom and comedy? Should I be paying more attention? Or less? I think all of the above.
All original content copyright 2009 Mary E. Slocum