Monday, May 27, 2024

Slow down

The fast forwarding of everything and its consequences

It feels like the world is being played at 2x speed. 

From the normalized 24-7 stimulation we receive from our devices—whether on a commute to school or right before sleeping, to sped-up TikTok audios prompting artists to release official sped-up versions of their songs—we seem to be fast-forwarding our lives as a society. This may seem like a non-issue, but the societal addiction to fast-forwarding through life is greatly consequential.

An attention crisis

Most social media, if not all, employs the use of extensively researched and rather predatory and malicious features to keep you scrolling. 

Think of the subtle satisfaction of double-tapping on an Instagram post, or the perfectly curated Tiktok For You Page that just understands you. This is all by design

Constant stimulation provides an unnatural influx of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that provides your brain with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, among other effects. 

With the desire for dopamine fueling our use of social media and driving our need for stimulation, oftentimes it’s not our fault we’re scrolling on TikTok at 2 a.m. But it is our cross to bear.

In a current age coined an “attention crisis” by British journalist Johann Hari, the repercussions of being “plugged in” too much are apparent. 

Our attention spans are significantly decreasing as multitasking is the new norm. More patients are being diagnosed with ADHD than ever before in history, although some argue that this is because of the decreasing stigma around mental health. 

When contextualized against the backdrop of diagnosis rates of depression and anxiety being at all-time highs, perhaps more attention should be paid to our habits and patterns.

Dysphoria and intelligence

The prevalence and use of short-form content and reliance on social media to meet our unmet needs exacerbates multiple pre-existing issues in society. 

The perpetuation of unachievable beauty standards is an issue that has been relevant in society before the existence of social media, but technology may be greatly worsening the problem. A 2021 MIT Technology Review study found that TikTok automatically applied beauty filters to users that hadn’t enabled the filter and the filters were unable to be turned off. The default automatic beauty filter is used by other applications as well and is likely a strategy to retain users through positive reinforcement. 

In reality, these filters oftentimes lead the users to develop additional dysphoria around how they look.

Perhaps the most concerning outcome related to social media is society-wide diminishing intelligence. 

The Flynn Effect is a trend of IQ rates linearly increasing from the 20th century to the present. After many decades of increases, recent studies have found that the trend is effectively reversing, indicating a decrease in intelligence due to environmental factors.

The importance of slowing down

Constant stimulation and reliance on quick solutions and a fast-paced lifestyle certainly do not seem to improve our lives. With our academic and occupational lives becoming increasingly digitized, we might not have a choice in remaining plugged in, however, fret not. Studies have shown that decreased social media use is effective in improving one’s mental well-being, whilst mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase fluid intelligence (a measure correlated with IQ). 

Taking a deep breath and making a conscious effort to slow things down and be present in a world that is constantly pushing us to the next deadline is integral to our health. By hitting the brakes and prioritizing ourselves and our health over instant gratification, we can truly find the peace we are looking for.

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