Frightened by the silence

I have to agree with Maureen Dowd:

The sounds of silence are a dim recollection now, like mystery, privacy and paying attention to one thing — or one person — at a time.  As far back as half-a-century ago, the Swiss philosopher Max Picard warned: “Nothing has changed the nature of man so much as the loss of silence,” once as natural as the sky and air.

Marcel Bullinga, author of Welcome to the Future Cloud—2025 in 100 Predictions, states that the perpetual noise of our busy digital lives can be dangerously distracting, but offers hope for the distracted.

The “Game Generation [of] teens and adults will have lasting problems with focus and attention” and will need assistance in learning the value of silence. “They find distraction while working, distraction while driving, distraction while talking to the neighbours. Parents and teachers will have to invest major time and efforts into solving this issue: silence zones, time-out zones, meditation classes without mobile, lessons in ignoring people. All in all, I think the negative side effects can be healed.”

Have we become frightened by the silence ?  What are the implications as more and more people reside in an environment characterized by clamor and noise?

The implications of a significant portion of the population being involved in “continual information exchange” are at best only partially understood. Certainly there has been plenty of discussion on the rise of participatory culture in the music and arts and the wearing away of boundaries between work and home. In the realm of news, acolytes of “continual information exchange” may not buy many newspapers, but some of them may be sources of information critical to understanding day-to-day events. Whether this is a pillar of a new business model for the news media is unknown. On the other hand, does “continual information exchange” create stresses in social norms? Does “continuous partial attention” (to borrow Linda Stone’s phrase) migrate to “serial digital distraction” as people respond to a slew of bits cascading to them?

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