Daily Archives: June 1, 2010

Realtime’s Distortion of Importance

When something is happening now, it always feels important. In retrospect, it probably isn’t. On the internet, it feels like I’m constantly attending to “now.” Twitter and facebook give me a realtime stream of what’s happening now. Every link, every update looks just as important as another. Visually, on facebook, there’s no difference between an update from someone I never talk to and someone I talk to everyday. The updates of people important to me are the same as people not important to me. On twitter, a link to some lame 10 Ways to Do X list looks the same as a link to something that may change the way I think. Link shorteners make it all a jumble of random letters. Living in realtime flattens my experience of the world; nothing is more important than anything else; each moment is sacred and demands my attention.

In real life, some people are more important than other people. Some things are more important than others. Some actions I should take, and others I should ignore.

With the news, anything happening today looks important. No, in this modern age, anything happening NOW is important. I can get updated in realtime. This distorts what’s really important, though. From a historical perspective, most of these things don’t really matter; they don’t alter the course of history in any major fashion. Most of what we consider news has no weight. A year from now, a reference to it in my blog makes no sense. (That’s not to say that my memory is a barometer of what is important and not important, but I’ll remember the Iraq War more than I’ll remember that once upon a time some ex-half-term-governor picked a fight with a late-night show host.)

I think this is why I want to avoid getting sucked up into the day-to-day news. Most of it isn’t important. Instead, I’m overwhelmed with data. I keep foraging for info, but I don’t spend my time thinking. What’s the point of hoarding all those berries if you have no time to eat them?