Hissy Fit - October 2017
Overstimulation:An Un-Stimulating State
There’s an epidemic going around. You can call it overload, overwhelm, or overstimulation. Whatever you call it, the truth is, we, meaning our entire society, have too much going through our heads and not enough boundaries, or quiet time to keep it at bay. In fact, quiet time may be a thing of the past, which means our brains can’t concentrate.
There are tons of people who declare they “have” to sleep with the TV on. I have friends who get texts from their bosses at midnight or five o’clock in the morning. People, especially teenagers, sleep with their phones. When I was young, if we would have pulled our wall phones into bed with us, somebody would have taken us to a doctor, or spanked us and taken it away for a week or two.
Six-year-olds have iPhones. No one has a pause button, or boundaries, or respect for others, for that matter. People operate as if everything is a priority, which has to be answered or handled urgently right now. It doesn’t matter what time it is. It doesn’t matter if you have a family, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a meal, it doesn’t matter if you need downtime, are asleep, or just don’t want to be accountable 24/7.
If we don’t answer a text within a certain amount of time—usually 2 minutes—we get chastised. If we don’t answer our phones, we have to text people to tell them why, or explain we’re not dead. It’s funny how in these days when we truly are so busy, busy signals aren’t allowed anymore.
Remember busy signals? If you were talking to someone on the telephone, there was no call waiting, no one had to hold on, or talk through multiple beeps of an incessant caller. There was simply a busy signal that let the caller know you were talking to someone else. The person on the phone didn’t even know that someone else was trying to call and didn’t care, either. That almost seems like heaven now. Who knew the busy signal was a luxury?
The sad truth is we can’t even go to dinner, to church or on vacation anymore without taking a peek at the phone, answering business phone calls, checking—and answering—emails, or texting people back at the office. Vacation has become work with a view, or work with your family staring at you with sad and mad faces, waiting to go do something fun. Instead you’re stuck in a resort villa, trying to email a quick spreadsheet to someone. Tell me that’s not stressful, or that we are not truly killing ourselves. And for what? Who started all of this? Who made it OK for this to be acceptable?
I see children in back seats of SUVs headed to school, watching movies. This is ludicrous. It can’t be more than four or five miles to school, and yet the child has to be stimulated or entertained for the nine-minute ride. There’s nothing like absolutely killing imagination. Parents think they’re doing their kids a favor. Not even close. Among other things, when these same children get their driver’s license, they have no clue how to navigate around their own community because they never bothered to look out the window before. Oh, and we expect them to pay attention in class.
Do you remember the scene in Bruce Almighty when Jim Carey was given the duty to be God? He had to listen to millions of people praying all at once. His head was swimming with prayer requests, and he couldn’t take it. He just hit the “yes” button for everyone. That’s how I feel life is these days—millions of things going on at once to the point of hardly being able to process a thought.
A friend said, “Nobody can remember anything anymore.” And she’s right. When there’s too much going on it is impossible to be clear-minded. It’s turned us into being quite rude as well. We scroll through social media while people are trying to talk to us. We fan through pictures to show people instead of listening. We talk on the phone at restaurants, in the middle of stores, even while we’re checking out. As if still having to post signs to not throw things in toilets isn’t bad enough, stores now have to post signs asking people not be on their phones while checking out. It’s hard to believe we actually need to be told that. The fact that we do is a sure sign things are out of control.
And of course there are those who are bothered by being asked to get off the phone to check out. These people are in desperate need of an intervention. Wake up! You’re being ridiculous.
In a world filled with infinite communication, we are more disconnected than ever. Children receive phone calls that never go through their parents. There are no home phones for friends to have to call and converse: “Hi Mrs. Smith. How are you? May I please speak to Daisy?” In fact, teens do very little calling period. Most of the communication is done through texting and Snap Chat, an app where a picture and a one-liner serve as a conversation. Snap Chat keeps track of how many days in a row you Snap-Chat each friend and calls it a “streak.” Kids don’t want to break their streaks, so they make sure they are Snap-Chatting every day. It’s engineered to be addictive.
We’ve all been sold a bill of goods. I know for a fact it’s negatively affecting me on a daily basis, and I’m afraid of how and where it will escalate if I don’t do something about it now. I’ve had a “no phones at the dinner table” rule since my children were younger, but that’s no longer enough. As college students, they can’t even read or study for five minutes without be beeped or alerted in some way. And putting the phone aside, or turning it off, is absolutely not an option for them, or any of us. We all think, “What if something terrible happens and I can’t be reached?”
The only solution is setting healthy boundaries and remembering what’s important. That’s the start of breaking the addiction—and it is an addiction. Plus, a little meditation can go a long way to help clear mind clutter, as well, even though sitting quietly for five or ten minutes has become extremely difficult. Here’s a thought, download a meditation app on your phone. Ugh! How ironic is that?