We live in a saturated world. There is a lot of everything around us.
With everything listed above comes an abundance of choice. How many times have you stared at a supermarket shelf or restaurant menu overwhelmed with the amount of choice presented to you?
Let’s use bread as an example. Got bread on your shopping list? Great. So what do you fancy? Brown or white? Triple seeded or multigrain? Wheat, rye, dark rye, German rye, half’n’half, spelt, low carb, sourdough, or gluten free? For some people, this can be a recipe for a panic attack. And that is just one seemingly simple staple food on your list.
Never before have we been given so much choice as consumers, and as great as that is, it can be extremely debilitating.
This affects me the most when it comes to our digital lives.
My Netflix watchlist is constantly growing. The number of podcasts that I’m subscribed to is far more than I will ever have time for. I continuously browse Apple Music trying to enjoy what I know I enjoy as well as keep up with the new stuff. Almost every day I hear of a new book I want to read, as well as some new app that is supposed to change my life that I want to try.
I believe this is the result of two things. The first being that the internet has made it so easy for us to discover everything in minutes. The second being the responsibility of corporations like Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Google.
The algorithms developed by these businesses are constantly suggesting new stuff to us. Oh, you just ordered this book? Great! We think you will like this one! You have just started X series on Netflix. We think you will like Y and Z too, why not give them a go? And it filters into everything.
It is very rare these days that we are not looking at some sort of advert, be it on purpose in our peripheral through constant and persistent advertising we are exposed to daily.
This is a world of fast everything. Fast entertainment, fast advertising, fast fashion and fast news. Very rarely do we get to sit back and absorb what we have just experienced before we get the next ‘amazing thing’ shoved into our face that we just ‘have to check out’. It is exhausting.
This new spike in mental health practices such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga hasn’t come from nowhere. It is humanity’s way of kicking back at society and what it’s becoming. There is a reason why mindfulness app Calm was voted the iPhone app of the year in 2017.
I find it impossible to focus on one thing these days and get any real joy out of that thing because I am constantly thinking (or being reminded by the internet) of all the other things I could be doing. Of all the other books I could read, all the other music I could listen to, all the other films I could watch.
Part of the blame falls on my ability to manage this, but part of it falls on the internet and what we have done to it. I can’t be the only one either because apps like freedom exist – designed to block distractions when browsing the web.
I feel like the human race has been handed this new incredible technology, the internet, that we don’t quite understand and we are the guinea pigs. Some of us take it in our stride, but some of us struggle to keep up and it’s damaging to our mental health.
The solution? I don’t know. All I can do at the moment is shut off notifications on my phone, turn off autoplay on Netflix and continue searching for solutions to look after my mental health in this digital age.