(Day 7 of 30 Days of Blogging)
There’s a famous experiment where subjects (typically poor university students) are left alone in a small, empty room with blank walls and no windows. They are asked to sit at a table and “entertain themselves with their own thoughts” for 15 minutes. No music, no phone, no TV. On the table is a button that applies a mild electric shock. It turns out, many of us will press that button, often multiple times. Why?
Like with any psychological experiment, we shouldn’t be too quick to come to conclusions. The conclusion here being that sometimes we prefer pain to boredom. Speaking personally however, I consider this to be true. I’d probably hit that button (at least at first out of curiosity, and probably afterwards out of boredom). I certainly hit that figurative button multiple times a day whenever I’m bored at home.
In the same way that eating broccoli is delicious, but totally boring to someone who has had their level of taste stimulation calibrated to sugary and salty foods, I’m considering the ways my own mental stimulation is over-calibrated to junk.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying junk food, or being highly stimulated. Only that perhaps it shouldn’t be one’s default state of being.
Let’s talk about 3 small things I think should be enjoyed responsibly in a Slow Life: Multi-tasking, social media, and cars.
Some people say that multi-tasking is a myth, but I’ve met many people who can do it quite well. They never do it by actually performing multiple tasks simultaneously though. Multi-tasking works by rapidly switching focus from task to task. When you train multi-tasking you’re really training to reduce the cost of all that context switching. This mode of thinking can be useful, but it can also be over-trained and isn’t very compatible with boredom.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using social media, having a social media presence, and talking to others on social media. It’s still junk food. Treat it more like enjoying a glass of wine (or your drug of choice) in the evening, and less like needing to get drunk throughout the day.
Ok, so here’s where I go off the rails a bit. I cannot stand cars. Whether I’m riding in a car, or walking on the street next to passing cars, or sitting somewhere and hearing traffic, for some reason cars keep me mentally stimulated juuust enough to be draining. I’m not even talking about the ecological impact of cars, which is also important. It’s something deeper… possibly the prevalence of cars combined with how much of modern life is involuntarily structured around them. As soon as I can better articulate my car beef I may write another post about it. Anyways, drive cars, but don’t live in or around them.