Bookbyte Blog

University_of_Washington_Seal.svgWhen the last time you did nothing? Not bum around on the internet because you were bored. Not flip channels absent-mindedly. Not even try to fall asleep. Just nothing?

It’s been awhile right? It’s worth trying sometime. Once your brain stops screaming that you’re wasting valuable time, you might start to appreciate the quiet.

That’s the idea behind a class at University of Washington called “Information and Contemplation.” For the first 15 minutes of class, students sit in silence. It’s a form of meditation, basically, a way to calm the endlessly multitasking mind of the average college student. The class hopes to take college students outside of their normally busy and distracted lifestyle to gain better perspective on how to live a more balanced and peaceful existence.

The word “distraction” comes with such a negative connotation, but the class isn’t a judgment on the value of tech. Nobody’s suggesting students should retreat into the woods like Henry David Thoreau. (Well, I guess Thoreau might.) Rather the hope is that students will be able to become aware of their bad tech habits and fix them. It’s not about cutting out tech, it’s about using it smarter.

I’ve always been wary of “lifestyle” courses like this, fairly or unfairly writing them off as too one-sided, unrealistic, or manipulative. But if I were a UW student, I’d probably try to get into this. I know I’m very guilty of the endless distraction that comes from a plugged in lifestyle. I double-check mail, sports scores, flash sale prices, and news far more than I should. I have 11 tabs open in Chrome at the time of writing this, and that’s not counting the other minimized window with another 4 tabs. I think I’m pretty good at multitasking, but I know I don’t need to be doing it as often as I do. Maybe I should start enforcing my own daily moments of silence.

The near-boundless access to information we have nowadays creates an itch for constant activity. But without discipline, it’s easy to busy yourself with out really accomplishing anything. When we, as a society, are at the point where we’re using our phones as in-bathroom entertainment, it’s probably about time for a little introspection, right?

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