Has the worm turned? Are people weary of multi-tasking, interactivity, overcommitment, overextension and too tied to mobile devices?
If you read an article in the July 27 edition of The New York Times headlined No Time to Think, you learned two things. First, the answer is no. As the article said:
In 11 experiments involving more than 700 people, the majority of participants reported that they found it unpleasant to be alone in a room with their thoughts for just 6 to 15 minutes…
…It could be because human beings, when left alone, tend to dwell on what’s wrong in their lives. We have evolved to become problem solvers and meaning makers. What preys on our minds, when we aren’t updating our Facebook page or in spinning class, are the things we haven’t figured out — difficult relationships, personal and professional failures, money trouble, health concerns and so on. And until there is resolution, or at least some kind of understanding or acceptance, these thoughts reverberate in our heads. Hello rumination. Hello insomnia.
But the second thing the article said is that this is really harmful.
…Suppressing negative feelings only gives them more power, she said, leading to intrusive thoughts, which makes people get even busier to keep them at bay. The constant cognitive strain of evading emotions underlies a range of psychological troubles such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and panic attacks, not to mention a range of addictions. It is also associated with various somatic problems like eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, inflammation, impaired immunity and headaches.
Studies further suggest that not giving yourself time to reflect impairs your ability to empathize with others….
Researchers have also found that an idle mind is a crucible of creativity. A number of studies have shown that people tend to come up with more novel uses for objects if they are first given an easy task that allows their minds to wander, rather than a more demanding one.
Of course, I’ve simplified here, but you can read the rest of the article at the link above.
As I read this article, I kept thinking two things — are museums becoming part of this problem? And how, instead, could they become part of the solution? Could museums be an antidote, or has — to borrow the old cliche — that train left the station?
I’m still thinking.