Life without a cell phone and a computer is an imagination that seems so far out that it is almost inconceivable for people in the current generation. I have found myself wishing on several occasions I was given birth to in the Victorian era, where exposing piano legs were forbidden because it is a sexual symbol and people read, knitted, painted and played the piano to pass time. These are hobbies that are still very much alive today, but in my dream to live in the Victorian era, I’m hoping for a lack of ease in connecting with the world. I know that sounds rather odd because in our world today, much is emphasized on connecting with world, having a global focus and shedding ignorance. With the advent of the internet, we are connected with the world in a matter of split-seconds. I’m picturing Jane Austen and wondering how she would react to the availability of resources made through the internet. My problem with such ease of access to the world is that I can’t handle it. This is too much.
I’m not just talking about seeing pictures of places around the world or finding out facts about other countries. I’m also talking about our access to news articles, opinions, political situations, event promotions, music, videos and so on. Every single day we are bombarded with millions of pieces of information in several forms. Log into Facebook and I can find out what my primary school friend whom I haven’t talked to in years is doing this very second and what she has been up to recently. We live in an era where mass communication is such an integral part of our lives that I feel like picking what to truly care about and put effort into is such a struggle. My high school best friend’s uncle just passed away, I need to check up on her. My classmate just posted an article on Steve Jobs, I need to read that. Kent State is holding a Dierks Bentley concert next Thursday, I need to expand my musical tastes. The Malaysian Government just made another change to the education system, I need to understand that and form my opinion on it. Occupy Wall Street is coming to Kent, I need to be informed and also form an opinion about it. It’s Diwali, I should care more about it because it is celebrated in my home. You get the point…
With resources available to us at our finger tips and our ease in finding out what’s going on in the world in mere seconds, there is an expectation for us to exploit it and “know everything”. I understand that what we (used in a very wide and general sense) are aiming for here is to not live in ignorance and to get the most out of life in being hyper aware of our surroundings and our world. The problem with this is that I feel overwhelmed all the time because I feel like I never know enough no matter how hard I try and end up being looked upon as “selfish and ignorant”. The truth is that no one can ever know enough because no one truly knows “enough”. But you have got to admit that you’ve met people that make you feel like a useless piece of crap beside them because they seem so much more well-informed about the world than you.
I have found myself falling into the very dangerous trap of apathy where I stop caring about many things because I have gotten so tired of trying that I feel completely drained. I walk past information tables on the ROTC, PostSecret, Unicef quickly and avoid eye contact (don’t we all?) because I don’t want them to stop me and interrupt my “busy” life. I have better things to do than to care about those noble causes which help make the world a “better” place. Or rather, I don’t know which ones to truly care about that I just go to the opposite end of the spectrum and just not care at all. When I think about it – seriously, is my life really that busy and important that I can’t spare a second to look at matters pertaining to the rest of world? No, of course it isn’t, it’s just the easy way out.
Which brings me back to the benefits of living in the Victorian era (or any other, I just have a penchant for the Victorian), I have so much less to care about that I can truly devote myself to what’s available in front of me without having to go through the arduous and never ending task of filtering. I can spend all day writing letters, playing card games, pool, reading, playing charades, painting and having conversations about governesses by the fireside. At night, I would not be able to contact anyone outside my physical presence. My only connection with the world would be through books and I would be perfectly content with that. I know this sounds extremely self-centered and ignorant.
My sentiment is this: How do we make this abundance of information a wealth and not a glut? How do we tip the scales in favour of the former?