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SEEKING SILENCE: A DIFFERENT KIND OF ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

SEEKING SILENCE: A DIFFERENT KIND OF ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

People often say that the downside of working from home is that you miss the human interaction. So I was a little surprised to discover, after I had quit my job to start my own business, that I really didn’t miss it at all.

This had me wondering why - the obvious answer being that I'm simply anti-social. This may well be the case but I realised there was more to it than that when I went for a run one day just before lunch and found myself in a completely empty park. I experienced the momentary joy of solitude in the middle of a hectic metropolis.

It’s more than just solitude that is in short supply in a city - it’s silence, it’s head space…and as an article in the New York Times earlier this month described it, it’s ‘the right not to be addressed’.

We’re not very good at silence. Between the multiple forms of media we tune into every day, often at the same time, we’re certainly bad at giving ourselves any (see our previous blog here).

So can we really complain when external parties show little regard for our right to solitude, beyond it’s narrow legal parameters?

Well, yes actually, we can. As Mathew Crawford, writing in the New York Times put it:

“Attention is a resource, a person only has so much of it. And yet we’ve auctioned off more and more of our public space to private commercial interests, with their constant demands on us to look at the products on display or simply absorb some bit of corporate messaging.

Lately, our self-appointed disrupters have opened up a new frontier of capitalism, complete with its own frontier ethic: to boldly dig up and monetize every bit of private head space by appropriating our collective attention.

In the process, we’ve sacrificed silence – the condition of not being addressed. And just as clean air makes it possible to breathe, silence makes it possible to think.” – The Cost of Paying Attention, the New York Times 7th March 2015.

As he rightly goes on to say, silence has become a luxury, something you only receive when you pay for an 'exclusive' service, such as flying first class.

This demonstrates a curious contradiction in society's attitude to silence: we value it sufficiently to pay for it as part of a luxurious experience but we're no good at giving it to ourselves.

This suggests a degree of compulsion in the way we feed ourselves media. The result is an erosion of our ability to concentrate, with one study we previously wrote about (here) finding some people who preferred to self-adminuster an electric shock that sit on a chair doing nothing for 15 minutes.

The full NYT article is well worth a read and can be found here

 

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Thursday, 18 January 2018
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