Our culture is confoundedly loud. And I’m not talking about people shouting at each other or laughing at each other or even whispering in each other’s ears. Instead we have the tapping sound of keystrokes, the buzz of phones on silent mode, and the click of computer mice. Not only is there the physical noise of people communicating with their gadgets, there’s the hum of a hundred silent conversations buzzing on Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms, emails, and text messages. It’s as if the world has forgotten what true silence is.
Everywhere I go, I see someone on a phone. Every store and coffee shop has music blaring. Even in the library, the traditional epicenter of thoughtful silence, the computers hum and click and beep like living things. And people flock to those computers, neglecting the thousands of volumes of silent knowledge that surrounds them on every shelf.
If someone wants to study, he keeps music going. If he’s reading, he has his phone in his pocket and replies to every empty text. If he’s driving, the news is blaring. At work, he has ten different windows up for each task, Grooveshark in the background and the news and weather streaming to his desktop. At home, while the family’s eating dinner, the TV’s on a coughing up a storm of worthless information. There is no escape.
And we wonder why there’s a whole generation of children with the attention spans of gnats.
Yes, we love our gadgets. We love to be connected. We love being distracted by the noise that pulses through every facet of our lives. We hate to think that at any given second we might be missing out on something grand.
But really, what good does always being connected do for us?
I remember when I and my high school graduating class all went up to a camp in the mountains for a week. Phones were verboten, internet was a no-go—everyone’s umbilical cords were cut. For the first time in a long time, a gaggle of high school students looked up from their phones and saw each other for the first time. Cliques split, walls shattered, new friendships formed—I hung out for hours with people I’d known my whole life but had never spent time with. I’ve never known such incredible unity. Unity that might not had happened if we’d kept our phones on.
And I know that there’s an element of this quasi-rant that’s hypocritical. I mean, aren’t I sitting here, tapping away, broadcasting my thoughts to the world?
Yes, I am. But I hope and pray that my communication is meaningful, that it won’t be worthless noise.
And today, I would like to deliver a challenge to those who read my offerings:
Turn it off. Shut it down. Pull the plug.
Listen to the silence.