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?