Is Knowledge Still Power?

The Internet wasn’t always addicting. When it was first released, it was a platform of new opportunity to learn and share everything and anything. It was a place to discover things with just a keyword. Those keywords provided a connection to thousands of different websites, blogs, pictures, and videos. By having everything connected at our fingertips, it is no wonder that, as a society, we became lazy with our knowledge. 

“Knowledge is no longer power.”

Domonic O’Brien

The Internet was one thing, but once social media came into the picture, it demanded even more of our limited time and attention. Eventually, we became consumed with updates and posts, but how? 

Living in the Moment

Clive Thompson illuminates the fact that social media companies develop their timelines in reverse chronological order. Since we are constantly refreshing our feeds, we become accustomed to seeing posts that are published within seconds of each other.

Our minds have become addicted to living in the moment, and not in a good way. By constantly looking at what other people are doing, you are missing out on what you are doing at the moment. This article made me realize that splitting my attention in half means that I am never giving 100% effort into the task.  I have been telling myself for years that when I am multitasking I am being more productive because I am completing two things at once. Now, I am questioning how my work would have turned out if I completed one task at a time.

In an interview with James Fallows, Linda Stone explains the concept of continuous partial attention in this Atlantic article. Stone reveals that social media and the Internet have altered our ability to stay focused on one task. I have pretty much grown up in a world of multitasking. At this point, I can comprehend reading Instagram captions, talking to a friend, and watching TV, all at the same time.

For example, if I’m on Instagram and talking to someone, I will miss part of the conversation because I was reading a caption or a comment. I would never ask them to repeat themselves because that would admit defeat in being able to multitask. Plus, I wouldn’t want to announce that I wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying. Almost always, I would feel guilty for valuing Instagram over a human conversation. With a society that values multitasking, if you can’t keep up, you will be left behind. Right now, instead of being left behind, I want to distance myself from extreme multitasking.

A Metaphor

I have noticed that there are three types of people that engage with their phones. There are people that are always on their phones, occasional phone users, and the people that never use their phone besides texting or calling.

Now, imagine a highway, a road, and walking trail parallel to one another. The highway users travel the fastest, followed by the road users, then the walking users. The speed of travel indicates how fast some keeps up to date on social media posts, news articles, pop culture events, and so on.

Highway usersRoad usersWalking users
Frequent use of social media/ Internet/ smartphonesOccasional daily use of social media/ Internet/ smartphonesLittle to no use of social media/ Internet/ smartphones
They are constantly up to date on what is going on in the world because they are always checking their phone. They glance at their social media throughout the day, but they don’t feel compelled to check it often. They know they don’t want to travel like the highway users, but they also don’t want to travel on the walking trail either. They spend most of their time on other tasks and don’t feel the need to be on their phone. 
Easy to get in touch with (will respond within the hour)Moderately easy to get in touch with (will respond within a couple of hours)Impossible to get in touch with (won’t respond for days, or not at all)

When I started this semester, I was definitely a highway user. I was always on my phone, on Instagram, on YouTube, or playing mindless games. As I started reading more and more articles and books about cellphone usage, I felt myself exit the highway and onto the road. At first, I felt uncomfortable on the road, and I was very tempted to get back on the highway. But then I realized I liked moving slower. I was able to look around more and take in my surroundings. Sometimes I forgot about my phone and I didn’t feel the need to check Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

I am now thinking of getting off the road, parking my car, and taking a walk. I would love to know what it feels like to ditch my social media, videos, and games completely and spend my time doing other things (reading, writing, and reviewing). After what I’ve seen in the articles, I like the idea of walking for a bit. I look forward to spending more time within my own thoughts instead of reading about someone else’s. I also embrace the boredom that will ensue. Instead of wasting time reading mindless articles, I want the boredom to inspire me to do something meaningful with my time.

It’s Okay to be Bored

Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, suggests to get comfortable with boredom. He says, when you are bored, you are filling your time with shallow work. When you feel this urge to do shallow work, use that as motivation to do work that is more productive and meaningful (Newport, 2018). I have been doing this lately with reading/ watching videos on how to be a better writer and reviewer. I have already learned so much, and I look forward to learning more in the future.

“To succeed with deep work, you must rewire your brain to be comfortable resisting distracting stimuli.”

Cal Newport, Deep Work

The knowledge that I used to obtaining online did not help me in my life. I would spend hours a day reading pointless articles about pop culture, politics, health, wildlife, and more. Where those articles interesting, yes, but I didn’t need to spend three hours reading them, no. I would tell myself, “oh, I’m learning new things,” but in reality, that knowledge isn’t the knowledge that is powerful. Powerful knowledge comes from deep work, and that is what I plan to do more often.

References:

Allebach, N. (2019).  A Brief History of Internet Culture and How Everything Became Absurd. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@nathanallebach/a-brief-history-of-internet-culture-and-how-everything-became-absurd-6af862e71c94

CNNMoney Switzerland. (2018 June, 14). Eight-time World Memory Champion Dominic O’Brien: Learn how to learn. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACw5YVgg4lc

Fallows, J. (2013). The Art of Staying Focused in a Distracting World. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/06/the-art-of-paying-attention/309312

Newport, Cal. (2018). Rule #2: Embrace Boredom. In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (pp. 172-199). New York, NY. Grand Central Publishing.

Thompson, C. (2017). Social Media is keeping is stuck in the moment. Retrieved from https://this.org/2017/11/15/social-media-is-keeping-us-stuck-in-the-moment/

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