“INCOMING!” is the last thing anyone wants to hear in a war zone. It means you have seconds to find cover before the stuff hits the fan. In the modern world, outside of the numerous battle zones spread across the globe, incoming, as it is used here, means something a bit less dangerous, but in some ways almost as concerning.
People today are continually being bombarded in ways their parents, grandparents, even soldiers in a battle zone might find disconcerting. They are bombarded by telephone calls, text messages, alerts from their smart devices, motion alerts from their doorbells, security cameras, and their car’s lane departure alarm, just to name a few. If those are not bad enough, Siri, Alexa, Echo, and who knows what are listening to every sound, and may respond in distracting, even confusing ways.
Perhaps fortunately, the human mind is quite adaptable. I say perhaps fortunately because how the mind adapts may not always be positive. Take for example the lead character in the movie “The Hurt Locker.” He became so energized by the serious, and dangerous, nature of his work, it made the rest of life pale in comparison. Accordingly, he took chances he needn’t take, and when given the opportunity to live a normal life returned to the battlefield.
Yes, soldiers can become so attuned to the battlefield they find normal life almost unbearable. If anyone doubts that, do an internet search for suicide rates among veterans. No one can say for sure why it is high, but the odds are the transition to civilian life leaves them empty in a way most of us cannot imagine.
The rest of us, unfortunately, can suffer similar, if less serious issues. We can become so attuned to the constant barrage of distractions, disturbances, and opportunities to immerse ourselves in the plethora of stimuli surrounding us we lose touch with the more critical aspects of life. If we’re lucky, our reaction is not as dangerous as what veterans face, but the suicide rate among all age groups is increasing at what should be an alarming rate.
It would be appropriate now to wonder if this piece is another example of chicken-little syndrome. After all, depending on the so-called authority making the charge, everything we have taken for granted in years past is deadly. From climate change to vaccines, the world as we know it is in peril. At least, in the minds of many people.
Alarmism or fearmongering is a concern in the world of social media and twenty-four-hour news. Yet, all one needs to do is observe those around them to know there is reason for concern in the area of overstimulation. Consider the following bits of anecdotal data.
In the United States at least, we have become so comfortable with being overstimulated we have trouble relaxing. Otherwise normal adults will admit if pressed, they are not comfortable doing just one thing at a time. Multi-tasking has become the non-narcotic addiction of the modern era.
That is why movie theaters have rules and incentives to curtail the use of handheld devices during the feature. It is why some people will admit they cannot merely watch television. They must be playing a game on their computer as well. In some cases, if we are honest, we spend time with loved ones watching television while browsing the web, playing Free Cell, or researching the actors playing various roles in the program we are allegedly watching.
If spending time with another person while watching television and playing a computer game is not enough of a drain on our psyches, our environments offer other potential distractions or sensory overload possibilities. Imagine you are playing back one of your favorite television shows. Of course, you are keeping the remote handy, so you can fast forward through commercials.
Simultaneously, you are playing Texas Hold-em on your tablet. Additionally, your home monitoring system beeps, chimes or whatever any time a large vehicle drives down the street or the neighbor’s dog runs through your yard. If that were not enough, one of your AI devices or systems breaks in intermittently to announce “Invalid Number” is calling.
Whew! Just writing the last few paragraphs made me feel the need for some form of mood-altering medication. Or, it could be I am feeling a bit too focused at the moment. After all, it is hard, not impossible, but hard to multi-task while writing something like this. I did get a slight break a few paragraphs ago when I researched suicide rates to verify I was not off base in my assertions.
Oops, my phone just told me its time to take my medication.
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