The Death of Reflection

June 8, 2013 at 10:09 pm 2 comments

I love my smartphone. It provides immediate information I need to run my busy life. But, there is a downside to constant connectivity for me and for society: the death of reflection.

Being hyper-connected—and agitated when not—means losing those precious moments when disparate ideas merge, when pleasant memories bring joy, and when pondering a problem leads to innovation. Accessing and using too much information all the time stifles reflection and all of its benefits.

Fitness, I believe, offers the solution of listening to one’s body, which is the antithesis of the quantified-self movement in which everything is tracked. When I run, I can feel last night’s overindulgence at dinner or, equally, last night’s eight hours of sleep. But all the devices to track where I am, my pace, or the comparison to my “friends” or my last run, distract me from the reflective process that often leads to great work after my run.

It’s not just when I run. It is all those moments waiting for an elevator or standing in line when I check my email, see if anyone has mentioned me on Twitter, or make my next “Words with Friends” move.

Letting one’s mind wander and reflecting on both one’s internal thoughts and feelings and the external world leads to great ideas—and by that I don’t mean just new and better devices.

A version of this will appear in a report on “Disappearing Futures” in the September-October FUTURIST. Thanks to Cynthia G. Wagner, Editor of the FUTURIST, and to Analicia Villanueva and Mike Gualtieri for their feedback.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Vivienne Woodhead  |  June 9, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    I agree with you on the importance of running (or walking) to focus on your interior state, both physical and mental. Paying attention to an electronic screen (however large or small) while completely still is so unnatural as to be deforming in every sense.

    Reply
  • 2. bsabian  |  June 9, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I also find that with smart phones “connecting” us to everything at any time, it’s a lot harder to be fully present wherever we actually are.

    Reply

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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She teaches Online Consumer Health, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design (online), and Digital Strategies for Health Communication (1 week summer institute). Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu

@lisagualtieri


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