Too Tired to Think

You probably already know that autocracies are on the rise. Whether you’re looking at Putin’s rise to power in Russia, Erdogan’s control in Turkey, or the return of the Marcos family to the political world of the Philippines, leaders who subvert the democratic process–and their cabals–have seized power in more and more countries across the globe. They rise on the crest of waves of popular discontent because they find simple, often brutal “solutions” to problems. Once they get elected, they kill or arrest dissidents, shut down the free press, and spread conspiracy theories that help them consolidate power.

I don’t pretend to know any more about politics than politicians pretend to know about teaching English. Yet it seems to me that the rise of autocracy corresponds proportionally to reliance on social media for news. It seems odd to frame American politics from 2000-2008 as a kinder, gentler arena for thoughts. Yet that era was the last before social media and smart phones ruined our minds–and the last where local newspapers served as primary news sources. Since 2004, more than 2000 newspapers have gone belly up.

We take our phones everywhere. People text in church. I’ve heard video games being played in bathroom stalls on more than one occasion. Many prom dresses and accessories have been purchased during class. Most insidiously of all, I see parents handing their toddlers phones in buggies at the checkout line at stores. Constant contact with these devices means that we never stop working, we never stop playing, never stop accessing new information. Another result: we are always tired.

We haven’t adapted to the potential advantages of smart phones and social media by allowing ourselves time away from them. We think more quickly–and with less regard for the consequences of our actions.

What does this have to do with autocracy? Everything. Without time to process information intellectually, we fall back on the vicissitudes of emotion, which makes us easy pickins’ for those who manipulate our fears.

Want to make the world a better place? Put down your devices. Read a magazine or a newspaper. Give yourself time to think.

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21 Responses to Too Tired to Think

  1. Bill Arnoldus says:

    Having reliable sources to get your information from is very important but having newspapers as a way to get that information is so inefficient that it’s obsolete. The internet provides a much more convenient and cost-friendly way of accessing information. The internet also comes with its downsides such as disinformation and unreliable sources. I’m unsure how disinformation has changed from the days of newspapers though. It seems as disinformation has always been around. For example, Yellow Journalism. Yellow Journalism basically caused the Spanish-American War. It seems like in order to get reliable information a person has to research on their own and get their news from multiple outlets in order to have a full idea of what’s going on. Phones and the internet aren’t all to blame on the current state of autocracies on the rise. If anything, reliable information has been harder to get since the days of newspapers because of the internet, but certainly isn’t too far gone.

  2. Jeremiah McClain says:

    Assuming we’re speaking in disregard to how this ironic opinion is communicated, there are plenty of other things that make us tired. Not to say that phones are the best thing in the word, but they are most certainly not the worst thing. Too much of anything is bad for you.
    If we were to get rid of phones, given the strong connotation I assume all technological devices too, it would be more than disrespectful to the ones who spent days to years trying to come up with a better way to spread information throughout the world.
    As far as misinformation goes, you will find misinformation anywhere. It would be irrational to think that just because something is in a book or a newspaper, it is automatically valid. If this were true I would have said, “everyone has to give me a million dollars or you’ll die” a long time ago.
    Life before technology was not “the good life”. We actually would not be here without it. I think this article below explains it better than I can.

  3. There are so many people in this world which is why there are always things going on. We’re all working toward something but what? Why? We are going to die but we work for money or love or whatever when really none of it matters. Humans have always been focused on the wrong things we get distracted by anything that is put in front of us. The ridiculous amount of people in this world and the push of mass media has built to this theme of constantly working, cellphones just made it easier. Leisure time used to not even exist think about whenever the humans just had to fight from wolves and stuff to stay alive. If I give myself time to think I just fall behind. It is easy for people who have already watched most of their lives unfold to say put down your phones, but the majority of our life experiences have had phones tied into them. Like do you want me to time travel to when you were nine and start destroying your TV with a hammer because you are having too much stimuli? Improvise, adapt, overcome.

  4. Kareena Patel says:

    The advancement of technology is a never-ending process. With the help of a cell phone, individuals are able to discover important information while being able to access a link that takes them into deeper realms of the topic being researched. That is relevant as one does not truly know about a topic until one gathers information from multiple sources. Yes, there are times when technology takes over and a person may find it difficult to put their device down. But, that does not take away from the pros that come with innovative, technological instruments. I honestly think that today’s generation is so consumed in technology that if we were to shift back to strictly newspapers and articles, less people would be able informed on current news.

  5. Lexi Holdiness says:

    It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of social media, however, we can also look at the negative influences it brings too. Social media and electronics have given many people an escape. An out from the world they may despise in replacement for a world they get to control. Social media especially is used to connect with others, hints the social part of the media. I don’t know if I’m completely following why social media is our inevitable doom? We’re too tired? Cell phones have created an easier, simpler way of life for many everyday tasks. Undoubtedly, they have made us lazier and ungrateful, but I don’t think that’s equivalent to our impending doom. This isn’t to say that social media is our saving grace either. I think a lot of negativity can be found in social media and cellphones, and I strongly encourage everyone to unplug once and a while. I feel like the opposing argument, that technology is our savior, could be made for the exact same reasons you might say for this argument. People are begging to rely more on emotional reasoning rather than intellectual, in many circumstances this is bad; however, it is not always bad. I know there’s a major generational difference between previous generations and my own but you could say that for the generation above that one, and the next one. There’s a reason, beyond cellular devices, that generations change and mindsets adapt. My generation may favor the emotional reasoning over intellectual reasoning because they disagreed with the intellectual reasoning of the generation before; furthermore, the generation after this one may disagree with the emotional reasoning that we rely on and focus on an intellectual mindset. Every generation is different, and I think it would be wrong to assume that every person forthcoming would think the same way.

  6. Geethika Polepalli says:

    Nowadays, the Internet is much easier to access than newspapers and magazines are. I do understand that there are many negative aspects of social media and the effects that being in front of a screen does on you, however, the positive notes cannot be overlooked. With social media, the news is able to be spread much faster than in the past and it is much more accessible. Most newspaper and magazine companies even have websites that offer the same information as to their paper versions. Most of these companies also have their own Instagram or Twitter accounts that update multiple times a day so the information on there is new and accurate. Newspapers aren’t able to do that, so the perks of having news on your cell phone make everything so much easier. It is hard to count for reliable information anywhere. Even a newspaper could have false information because anything can change every minute of the day. So, it is just better for people to rely on their phones because they are easily portable, can be updated at any time, and everybody has a phone now.

  7. Andrew Liu says:

    Since its invention, the internet has made information much more accessible to a wide audience. With most people owning a cell phone with some sort of social media, news and other content is available at the tap of their screens. This is irreplicable with newspapers, which must be printed on dead trees and delivered, which takes a considerable amount of time compared to the internet. Though misinformation and sensationalism is a concern with news in social media, the same has also been prevalent in newspapers for a century. Thus, I do not believe it is fair to put the blame entirely on phones and social media. Ultimately, the avoidance of misinformation is dependent on individuals, and they should be taught how and what to avoid on the internet from an early age. Overall, technology such as phones and the internet offer greater accessibility to news and communication, and I believe this outweighs the possibility of misinformation.

  8. James says:

    Technology itself is both a burden and a blessing. It depends completely on how the user uses it. As Bill said, newspapers are becoming an obsolete technology. Why pick up a paper when you can pull up the newspaper’s website on your phone? It’s important to take breaks from your phone and use varied sources, however, to the person who is capable of balancing their emotions with logic, getting info from the internet not only increases the amount of information they can get, but also gives the ability to get relevant information quickly.

  9. Hong Zheng says:

    No phones or phones. Technology or no technology. Both have their various benefits and downsides. Phones were made for a simpler and more convenient time for the people. It does that job correctly by spreading information, giving people an escape from reality, giving entertainment, handling public transportation and money, and many more. In fact, they do their job so well that people get addicted to the rush of serotonin and convenience. So addicted that people disconnect their mind and body and eventually become consumed by their devices. Newspaper on the other hand offers critical thinking by ridding other’s opinions, but in return, news travel slower, convenience drops, and fewer voices can be heard. Fewer voices can lead to a more controlling government and more fear for fighting something deemed injustice. Having listed the positives and negatives, which would you fight for? I think that as long as technology keeps evolving, people will continuously lose the ability to think critically due to the fact that convenient items make more money. I think while many of us can agree that phones do bring a lot of mental destruction, most would not be able to do a simple search for an unknown word without their phones. In my opinion, too far into either spectrum is grave.

  10. Laya Karavadi says:

    The invention of the internet has made all our lives much easier. The convenience of modern technology is why the demand for phones is so high. Such a small device controls a huge portion of our lives, ordering food, searching for how to get somewhere, and reading the latest news, rather than a newspaper. However, with all these positives, there are obvious negatives. Due to how easy they make our lives and how we can escape from whatever is happening in our lives, people succumb to the wormhole of the internet and become addicted to the feeling they get from using the phone. It is true that people get so addicted that they stop engaging in full conversations, lose their attention span, and become slaves to their phones. But, this happens due to carelessness to such convenience. Taking a break from a cell phone, and just having time to yourself is super important. Honestly speaking, a phone is necessary and it is how it is. Without a phone, people would be disconnected from a lot and not know about anything that may be happening, but a phone is definitely unnecessary to be used in a bathroom stall… Either way is pretty bad. It is important to find a balance so that you can have all the positives but not need to reap all of the extreme consequences.

  11. Christina Zhang says:

    To be an informed citizen and an active member in democracy, journalism is required. If I were to just put down my device and solely consume news through the paper, my life would be a lot worse! There is only so much a newspaper can objectively cover; it is crucial that I get my news online so that I can stay up-to-date, hear multiple perspectives, and join in on discussions. Of course, there are consequences of this, but the enemy is not online new media–it is the lack of regulation on our consumption of media. I am aware of the dangers of over-consuming online media, so I try to make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of time I spend online, but this does not mean I will turn to paper as better alternative. We cannot put the blame on online news for the decline of critical thinking so long as educational institutions still exist.

  12. Jenna De Ochoa says:

    Absolutism requires ignorance. Technology may be responsible for misinformation, however, it results in spreading information across social and economic classes. A student can instantly receive the latest news regarding a school shooting. A parent can gain real-time updates on wars. Citizens do not have to rely on the Sunday morning paper for the latest news. Information can become a nation’s ally and ensure that citizens are not left in the dark. Technology is vital to the fight against mass ignorance. How can a politician lie about a speech while millions of people witnessed the live broadcast? During the war on Ukraine, Russia blocked significant media outlets and banned Instagram from servers, because technology can be the downfall of autocracies. I believe that used wisely, technology can reinforce the values of democracy and give power to the people.

  13. Hilldana Tibebu says:

    I think social media and cell phones are like any other technological advancement and can be used as a manipulative tool to thwart citizens’ perception of politics and government. As for me, all of the news that I receive is through my phone or some other electronic device. It is also the only thing that allows distanced communication between me and my family or friends. Asserting the idea that it is useless is far too rash, considering it has become the center of everyday life. Although it causes its problems, I think that eradicating it totally will raise more issues than solve them.

  14. India White says:

    I agree that phones have become a huge distraction, and that they have made us more susceptible to manipulation and disinformation, but the solution isn’t to turn my phone off and restrain myself from accessing the internet for days at a time. Phones and the internet do not only serve as way to communicate with random strangers you have never met before, but they are also essential to any form of communication in today’s society. If there is a big announcement from our academic advisors or Dr. Moore, they don’t announce it on the intercom, they send an email. My chemistry homework is not given to me as a typed handout, it is online. When I my parents need to notify me of a family emergency, they do not send an owl, they call on the phone. It is nice to put your phone down and log off for the afternoon but how are you going to complete that Final Exam essay for U. Comp. that is due on Wednesday? I am not opposed to taking a break from my phone and the internet, but it is not realistic. Our society has created an unescapable loop where you are required to look at your phone throughout the day, and if you stray from this loop, you will be left behind in all aspects of your life. And you can try all you want to, but the only way to catch back up is if you enter that loop again.

  15. Elliot Mathers says:

    Humans are not perfect. No one can perfect them other than god. If I were to change the world though i think i would make places of power harder to gain. Since politicians are weak nowadays because they are not threatened constantly. Back in the day when princes were trying to get to the throne they would of course for their own factions but politics were mini-wars because factions would lethally oppose each other. so i would bring back the mini-wars but put them out into the light. People would have duels in whatever they wish to obtain the peoples approval. Of course the wars in the shadows would keep going but all of this is to strengthen society and make them think more. I know this is a sinister way of thinking but right now politicians are weak-minded and easily manipulated but if they were warriors i think it would pan out differently.

  16. Aaron+Sharp says:

    How did you post this blog question? With a screen? Sure there are some disadvantages that come with using screens, but that doesn’t mean the advantages don’t outweigh them. Social media has revolutionized many things. Communication has never been easier, and that’s not something to overlook. Time is a resource, and technology has changed time management forever. You no longer need to write a letter or send a fax to announce something to a group. The economy has skyrocketed since the beginning of the technology era, and like it or not, it’s going to be a huge part of our future. It’s better to get accustomed to it, and understand your way around it rather than be left vulnerable and confused. Technology can be a useful tool if you use it right. When we use our phones in your class it’s not because we’re addicted, it’s because we’re burnt out and bored out of our minds, and being on our phones is the cure. And it’s not that your class is boring, because it’s one of the most interesting classes I take, it’s just that school kills us because school was created to keep factory workers in check, and we are not factory wrokers.

  17. Jason Barlow says:

    Screens are what allow for greater communication. I would not like to give them up as much as anyone else, and more often than not I do not see them as a problem. Yet, I think that screens are something that shouds a bigger problem; with screens being something easy to point at and blame. I think that bigger problem is problems themselves, so many problems sprout forth from others. The reason that others may see screens as tiring, it is because it is capable of blasting your mind and thoughts with endless problems with the world, the environment, and yourself, all at the push of a button.

  18. Everett "CJ" Mason, Jr. says:

    Technology has been one of the greatest yet worst things to happen to our society. Without advances in technology, we would not have search engines, computers, or any of the devices we use on a common basis. However, it would be unwise to look past the many downfalls of technology. In our current culture where conclusions are jumped to much faster than ever before, fake news and “trends” plague our society. When it comes to autocracies, technology and software such as Twitter allow “cults” to form and ideals are not thought about – they are often acted upon on instinct.

  19. Gordon Welch says:

    While devices such as computers, phones, and tablets have helped the world progress. It has also caused us to take a few steps back. Everything we rely on almost always comes from the internet. We don’t have to do research, one can simply do a quick google search. We don’t have to wait to talk to someone until we get home, we can text them at almost anytime, anywhere. This shortens our attentions spans and decreases our patience with others. At the same time, almost no one is going to give up their phones. The options are to either regulate them, or let things play out. With regulation, questions as to what control you can have over someones phone comes up. There is no right answer or solution. People can try to help the world by limiting their screen time, but very few people will actually take steps to bring the world slightly further away from technological use.

  20. Brianna Moore says:

    Technology inhibits the human brain’s understanding of patience. By constantly scrolling through 30-second videos, humans are trained to have a short attention span. People do not live in the moment and digest the events happening around them. While this decreases the overall thoughtfulness of the human race, technology is still a blessing. I would rather have a short attention span than have died from tuberculosis as an infant. Medical advances alone justify the blatant drawbacks to having always having a phone in hand. Hospitals, medical equipment, and vaccines increased the survival rate of humans and allowed communities to thrive. Technology helped to eliminate density-dependent factors and to sooth density-independent factors that decreased the growth rate of humans. Mothers could rely on their baby to survive infancy and the average age of death increased. While we have been deprived of developing patience, we have been able to live to unheard of ages and compute insane math problems. The benefits of technology heavily outweigh the drawbacks.

  21. I agree that the use of phones has a boundary we pass every day. Technology and social media have revolutionized society in the way we express ourselves. Our brains are overstimulated as we scroll through social media, one new post after the other. This overload of information, often false, makes me feel numb to the real world around me occasionally as technology advances. However, I also have no idea what I would do without my phone. It is almost magical how many more opportunities to learn, go places, and ways to communicate become available when you spend all your savings on a tiny device that you treat as a small extension of yourself. Not all social media is awful, and I believe specific algorithms formed from consistent consumption of the same content can be turned into something positive. A feed of inspirational quotes, amusing stories, and more, does not have to be as toxic as the majority of the things seen on social media today. It is always important, however, to perceive “facts” as usually biased opinions, because we are all human when bringing awareness to things at the end of the day. I discovered valuable information through my phone, and I definitely save a lot of time as this small screen makes my life easier.

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