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EMBRACE NOTHING

Contrary to what the title of this post suggests, this is not an essay on Nihilism; this is about how to be human. Our society has changed immensely, even just in the last couple of decades; most distinctly, we’ve seen improvements in technology, but at what cost? With the rise of social media and constant access to the internet, we’ve become endlessly addicted to entertainment; we have lost our ability to do nothing.

To put it simply, we are never content. We get bored too easily; we want too much; we need too much; nothing is ever enough. When was the last time you truly did nothing? When was the last time you sat by yourself, in silence, with only your thoughts to entertain you for an extended period of time? For most people, it’s been a while. And this may not seem like a negative thing. In theory, the fact that you’re always doing something means that you’re always being productive; it means that you’re accomplishing more, but think about how you usually spend your free time. Are you really being productive? In all likelihood, you’re not. I’m usually so tired when I get home from school that I just want to take like 10 minutes to watch YouTube and decompress a little, but that 10 minutes turns into 30, and then an hour, and most often, even more than that. Instead of decompressing, I am overcome with a daze that makes me unable to think properly, and definitely will not be able to complete my homework in a reasonable amount of time. Getting online and scrolling through short clips is the easy option. It distracts you from whatever was stressing you out, and it changes often enough to keep you interested, but when it comes down to it, you probably aren’t paying attention to what you’re watching. Honestly, how much do you remember from what you see online? If you struggled to come up with an answer for that, you’re clearly not watching anything important to you. More notably, it makes it more difficult to focus later on. Kevin McSpadden wrote, “The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the effects of an increasingly digitized lifestyle on the brain.”(3) We use social media and the internet to avoid doing what we need to, thinking about something stressful, and being alone. 

What the world needs to embrace again is the ability to do nothing. It isn’t unproductive; it resets you and your mind. Society has embraced the exact opposite of nothing; we have embraced everything. We have learned to assume that doing nothing is being lazy and that being alone is being lonely, but neither of these things is true. In reality, the fact that we instill this into the population is what causes these problems. Most people cannot handle being alone (assume that in this context, to be alone is to be thinking with yourself; you know, like when you’re having a full conversation in your head). People are afraid of being alone because they are afraid of being lonely, so even when they are physically alone, they fill their time with texting, phone calls, movies, music, and scrolling aimlessly through TikTok for hours; they are never really alone. People avoid isolation, they embrace loneliness as a negative concept that appears anytime they are alone. This dependency on other people for entertainment has caused us to entirely lose our focus, purpose in life, understanding of ourselves and the world, and the ability to have innately profound and philosophical thoughts that are what make us human. 

Since the start of the school year, I have been struggling to focus at school. I hardly listen to any of the lessons, and I get confused because I wasn’t listening. I procrastinate the homework because I don’t understand, I do poorly on the tests, and then I get stressed out about my grades and the fact that I still don’t understand. Then this stress makes me try to go backwards and understand, but I’m too focused on what I didn’t understand to learn what was currently being taught. It’s a vicious cycle of anxiety and lack of focus, and it’s not working out well for me. Frankly, it’s making me really unhappy with who I’m becoming. I spend too much time on my phone, I am constantly listening to music, and I call my friends too often; I don’t get enough exercise, I certainly don’t get enough sleep, and I cause chaos because I’m bored. I don’t do assignments until I have to, yet I feel like I do absolutely nothing else with my life but school. I know that this is relatively cliche for a teenager, but I’ve sort of lost myself over the last four or five months. The worst part of it is that I know exactly how to fix it and haven’t. I’ve just been enabling the cycle because of a “lack of opportunity” to stop it. I’m not saying that this is the solution for everyone, but it works for me. All you need for this is one day where you have truly nothing you need to do, and then just follow the steps (adjust or omit as needed.) Listed below are my steps and options to clear your mind, restore your focus, and embrace nothingness.


  1. Wake up early.

  2. Turn off your phone.

  3. Go for a walk.

  4. Find someplace outside to sit.

  5. Sit there and do nothing but think (FIGHT THE URGES!!!)

  6. Write what you’re thinking about (I literally just write whatever runs through my mind because it keeps me just entertained enough, but also, the more I write, my words start to seem poetic and ultimately, I’ll come to some astounding philosophical idea or personal realization; it’s pretty mind-blowing.)

  7. Meditate (my personal preference for meditation is to try and empty my head; even to get the impossibly stuck song out.)

  8. Stare at the ceiling for a while.

  9. Be alone and avoid talking to people.

  10.  Be still and avoid completing tasks.


I know this can’t work for everyone, but it is just breaking a habit; beginning is the most difficult part. It’s hard to find a whole day, so you can implement this slowly, but also, remember to limit your screen time and get enough sleep; it’s so much more important than we want to believe. 

In summary, we need to relearn how to do nothing; we need to appreciate silence; we need to find more importance in who we truly are. We need to remind ourselves what our values are and reinforce them by removing (even if only temporarily) what we don’t want to value. If you are struggling to feel like yourself, be alone, handle boredom, or focus, you need to go back to the basics and embrace nothing


P.S. If you didn’t pick up on it, this post is step 6 for me. 🙃



Sources:

  1. Lorenz-Spreen, Philipp, et al. “Accelerating Dynamics of Collective Attention.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 15 Apr. 2019, www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09311-w

  2. McSpadden, Kevin. “Science: You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span than a Goldfish.” TIME, TIME, 14 May 2015, time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/

  3. Mills, Kim, and Gloria Mark. “Why Our Attention Spans Are Shrinking, with Gloria Mark, Phd.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, Feb. 2023, www.apa.org/news/podcasts/speaking-of-psychology/attention-spans

  4. Nesmith, Angelina, and Alexander Navarro. “Are Attention Spans Decreasing?” Andrews University, 25 Feb. 2022, www.andrews.edu/life/student-movement/issues/2022-02-25/ideas-are-attention-spans-decreasing-.html.

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