Cutting Out the Noise

We live in a world that is extraordinarily different from what our ancestors have seen or conceived the future to be. Technology has invaded our worlds with buzzwords such as artificial intelligence impacting our way of lives like never before. The world has become busier. Smartphones have made people more connected than ever before. We have become so much more productive with technology by our side.

Despite that, there still seems to be something missing in this extravagance of our lifestyle. I think what should have made us smarter and happier has made us become excessively preoccupied with doing something all the time. We try to create a image of ourselves trying to fill in the smallest gaps of our lives with things to do. In the process of doing so and attempting to become more productive, I think we have lost the true peace of mind and in fact compromised the ability of the brain to do so much more.

Typical Scenarios

  • I am waiting for the bus. I launch Instagram to check my friends’ latest posts.
  • I have a break at college. I open my todo list to see what can I squeeze in during the break.
  • Sitting on the train? I am getting up-to-date with my emails.
  • At the gym? Scrolling through my Facebook feed.
  • At home? Probably I’m lost within the depths of Quora.

It all sounds so productive until we realise the constant preoccupation of the mind. We all talk about noise pollution. I think this is noise pollution too, on the inside.

This TED talk seems to affirm this.

It shows how boredom can actually lead to the best ideas. And thinking about it, when was the last time I actually came up with a good idea? I realised it was when I was bored. At that time, I was trying to come up with a really good idea for my entrepreneurship class.

I was sitting at home, with my phone out of battery. The TV was off. Naturally, I slipped into this “pondering” mode. Soon, my mind drifted off and I was thinking of all the various problems I could find a solution for. Thoughts were flowing in, and finally it came to me to solve the problem of language barriers in digital content. I was thinking about how we could listen to any video in our own language which brought up the idea of “InstaDub”, an instant dubbing solution that was voted as the class’s most popular idea the following Tuesday! That’s just one of my examples.

Similarly, think about the last time you actually had a great idea. It most probably would not have been when you were browsing Instagram or “Snapchatting”, but rather when you were bored and were lost in this “pondering mode”.

Here’s another recent article from Business Insider which talks about how the most famous intellectuals spent time doing absolutely nothing.

Albert Einstein, the famous German-born scientist, who conceived of special relativity, was known to be a daydreamer. The author of the article describes how he followed a 2-hour rule to practise some reflective thinking and shares the great returns he had.

In fact, I think everyone should do this. At least once a week. 2 hours may be long for some of the busy bees, so I suggest doing at least anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour each week to do simply nothing. Sounds easy right? Not that easy I guess. The culture that technology and social media has cultivated in us naturally prompts us to check our phones hundreds of times a day or in other words, occupy the tiniest fractions of free time with something to do. Just sitting still and doing nothing no longer seems to be an option.

Nevertheless, I don’t think people alone are to blamed when companies spends millions into research and development of apps which makes people want to use them and come back to them. I tried doing nothing for an hour. I managed it successfully through the urges to check my email and the thoughts of my WhatsApp notifications piling up.

What I saying here is that, give the mind some space. I would call this “cutting out the noise”. These systems: emails, social media, videos etc. were all created by us humans. These are just tools meant to aid us. So, let us treat them as tools for life and not to the extent where it becomes a way of life. When they do become your way of life, then these systems are no longer just tools, but they turn into noise. Cut out that noise and I guess it will do us a lot more good, both in the short-run and long-run.