“Hurry Slowly” is a superb podcast by Jocelyn K. Glei, encouraging listeners to think deeply about digital mindfulness and finding ways to be more present, creative, and resilient in this harried digital world.
The latest guest of her podcast is Rob Walker, a journalist and author of “The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday.”
Their conversation lasted almost an hour and touched upon many topics I think about constantly. How technology is changing the way we behave and we see the world. How we’re inundated by notifications and pay so much attention to our buzzing digital devices, that we miss what is going on in the world around us. But even more importantly: how the performative nature of social media has been slowly training people to see real life experiences as potential posts that can result in likes, followers and the apperance of coolness. Does something matter if you do not post about it? Are you doing something because you genuinely enjoy it, or are you doing it for “likes”? The cult of productivity and the relentless drive to appear popular on Instagram… what are they doing to us as human beings? Have we forgotten how to be human? (as photographer Sara Melotti provocatively says in our interview for The Realists)
A poignant reflection by Rob Walker at the end of the podcast:
I think that noticing and attention and appreciating say a plant, or a sound, or a sunset… that you can appreciate those things and that can be its own reward. And I worry that another offshoot of this tech culture that we’re in is that… the sunset that you just enjoyed us no good, it doesn’t do you any good unless you share it on Instagram, and maybe you even started a “best sunsets on Instagram” group. And maybe that leads to a book deal and then you’ve done something. And I really want to resist that pressure, and I want to put in a word for just appreciating the world as it is, and that being its own reward sometimes. […] Even I feel like there are times when I need to suppress it… and stop trying to convert every idea into some kind of cultural product – from an article to a web site or whatever – and just enjoy it, and be in the moment.
My favorite moments of the “Hurry Slowly” podcast are the meditations by its host Jocelyn K. Glei. Here is what she had to say at the end of the podcast:
Rob calls out such an important tension with that final statement: this drive to be productive – that is so deeply embedded in all of us now – this feeling that everything, even just noticing the world around us, must somehow be a means to an end… that all of our thoughts and dreams and observations must be productized in some way. And if we aren’t packaging that moment up for someone else’s consumption… well was it really worth it? And this is the devil’s bargain that technology asks us to make again and again. It’s not about being productive. It’s about looking productive. Having a lot of meetings on your shared calendar looks productive. Answering your emails swiftly looks productive to the people receiving the replies. Posting a lot of pictures of gorgeous sunsets looks like you are being productive in a weird, weird moral world of Instagram. But while we’re so busy looking productive, looking like we’re living our best life… Real life passes us by. Because Instagram, social media, technology is an addiction like anything else, like drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, and the sole purpose of any addiction is to not notice things, to shut something unpleasant out. Because being present does hurt sometimes. But it also, at least as far as I know, is the only way to be really and truly alive.
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