I am of the generation who grew up with the TV always on. My parents stayed up every night to watch the 11 o’clock news, and of course, we watched the 6 o’clock news while we ate dinner. Television provided entertainment, but it also reinforced values. Shows like, Little House on the Prairie, reinforced the messages my parents tried to teach me; honesty, respect for your elders, responsibility. I watched the Brady Bunch, Mr. Rogers, and Captain Kangaroo. Watching TV when I was young, was educational and informative.
Now I have my own kids, and TV does not feel the same. Movies and shows seem to actually take pride in undermining values. When reality TV shows highlight individual’s worst moments their ratings go high. Kylie Jenner is on the cover of Forbes magazine as the youngest self- made billionaire, why? Shows are filled with violence, crime, death and murder, sex and drugs.
There is an industry now that works on creating stimuli and entertainment that is additive. In fact, when a video game is designed, they attach electrodes on to a player and measure the dopamine release and heart rate in order to determine the likelihood someone will play/be addicted to their product. Shows end on cliffhangers and Netflix now starts the next episode automatically. All these things happen in order to make choices for us. They are designed by default to hack our biochemistry and make us want to continue. Who are we trusting with our brains, our bodies, and our chemistry?
In order to be creative and free of manipulation, it takes a lot of effort to pull ourselves free. Following our dopamine on instagram or twitter is easy, but it distracts us from engaging in life in a meaningful way. Our world needs our attention, our children need our attention, and we owe ourselves our attention.
It seems like it will be more and more difficult to find our way when technology is purposefully hacking our attention. Staying awake and pulling ourselves away from what is easy is necessary if we are to address climate change or political unrest or even the process of striving for our higher purpose. Waking up and deciding what is worthy of our attention is one way we can reclaim control. Otherwise, we are being controlled and we don’t even know it.