I just found myself flipping between two tabs on my Google Chrome browser, on the kinds of topics/links that Facebook and Google and all the other organizations that are constantly collecting all of my background data and feeding me things that I am definitely going to click on fed to me (side note: I even now get sort of irritated with myself if I accidentally click on something on my Facebook feed that I’m not interested in, catching myself thinking that I have deceived Facebook and so I have a just a slightly higher probability of seeing irrelevant/uninteresting things on my Feed, and it’s all my fault).
Pretty normal for…well, any time of day. Currently, I am in the library with a rather difficult problem set about proving the Arrow Impossibility theorem out in front of me. So, of course, I instead found myself flipping between two tabs, almost seamlessly…and had a moment of mindfulness (happens way less often than it should) and felt pretty disturbed:
(1) The very moving NYTimes oped that has been going around: “My Own Life: Oliver Sacks on Learning he has Terminal Cancer”
So, how did I go from reading a really moving piece about a man dying of cancer and his reflections on life, to…er, a Sesame Street parody of House of Cards? Without even blinking. There is something about that that I find to be extremely disturbing. Even more disturbing (and embarrassing to admit) – is that I hadn’t even finished reading the former 1-2 page article. I caught myself skimming the first two paragraphs.
I then looked at the tabs that I currently have open. They are:
1. An article written by a friend on what New Zealand’s role should be in supporting Syrian refugees
3. A school course webpage
…and the two aforementioned tabs.
First, I thought that this is way less (as in, maybe 5-6 times less) tabs than I normally have open (self high-five!). But second, I thought…even if that is the case, what am I doing?! What am I possibly gaining from flipping between all of these at god knows what speed?
I finished reading Oliver Sacks’ oped. It was beautiful. He wrote a line that I’ve said to many friends and people close to me before, almost verbatim: “There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever.” If this is true, and obviously, I really believe it is….what am I doing flipping between a million tabs, not concentrating on anything or anyone, and eventually shutting my computer just to get on my phone as I walk to my next destination?
So. There it is. I don’t have any particular answers. Just a small, rather disturbing, feeling of…not being a human – as Sacks eloquently describes it, “a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet” – for a few moments there. How many more moments will I lose?