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Pedro Piñera

Mobile Engineer at SoundCloud and Open-Source ♥



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I woke up this morning thinking about the parallelism that we could establish between what programmers know as reactive paradigm, and how we’re hooked to the information around us.

In the past, there wasn’t that much information and most of the access to it was in a “pull” manner. Only if you were interested in reading or knowing about something, you found the information by yourself. That allowed us to have more control over the consumption of the information. When we wanted to get it, in which format… However, things have changed pretty quickly in the last decade. The Internet has landed everywhere, and the ”pushed” information became a thing. With the ”pulled” information, there was also some information that was directly sent to us, we became active subscribers of many streams of information:

  • We get a notification when someone mentions/likes/retweets our tweets.
  • We get a notification when someone liked our last publication on Facebook/Instagram.
  • We get a notification when our football team scores.

The more connected we are, the more information we’ll need to be able to handle. Isn’t it overwhelming? It reminds me of Julio Cortazar’s poem about the watch:

They aren’t giving you a watch, you are the gift, they are giving you yourself for the watch’s birthday.

He states that by wearing a watch, we are prisoners of the time, because we’ll always be checking the time instead of enjoying the present, without any time limit. I the same with gadgets that have access to the Internet, the more we have, the more hooked we are on these streams, and the more difficult it is for us to escape from them.

We’re told that the new coming wearables are supposed to make our life easier, and nicer, but in my experience, that’s not what really happens. Companies behind these gadgets are businesses in the same way information companies are. Apple is as interested in selling you the watch as Facebook is in you being an active user of the platform. We are their products, and it’s crucial that they can hook us when they feel we’re getting far from them.

I’m not saying that everything that comes with these wearables/gadgets is bad, there are also good things, but they create a very implicit dependency that you are not aware of until you use them on a daily basis.

These information streams stimulate our brain. Our brain is a muscle, and it needs energy for processing each of these notifications or information chunks that we receive during the day. Haven’t you feel exhausted after a very intense day of using your computer or phone? Most likely, your brain did a lot of context switching, and our brains are not ready for that (at least our generation). Moreover, when we don’t have the information coming, we feel weird, and we find the stimulation because our brain became addictive to it. These are the moments when you pick up your phone, or your computer, and open Facebook (even if you opened it 5 minutes ago) because it feels weird that you didn’t get any notification for 5 minutes.

New generations might develop the next generation of the human brain. A brain that can do context switching without a lot of energy, and process a lot of chunks of information without getting exhausted. However, ours don’t. I see meditation apps as the new todo apps, apps that try to create a bubble of calm and information-free harmony in a very noisy and busy environment. In my opinion, we should give our brain a meditation-like peace not only these 15 minutes of meditation but for the whole day. Enable do-not-disturb mode, leave your watch at home, disable the push notifications for non-urgent services… your brain will thank you.