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Sensory Overload

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by JeffPrevails, Aug 26, 2011.

  1. JeffPrevails

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    With the growing capabilities of phones and mp3 players/iPods, not to mention television whenever you want it via TiVo or Netflix or Hulu, do you guys ever feel like there's never a moment of silence in your head? I feel like there's always background music and my brain is working overdrive to sustain all of this input it's constantly receiving. My girlfriend and I eat breakfast while there's an episode of Netflix on the computer. I drive with one in a large rotation of podcasts playing. I usually fall asleep to something playing on the computer. If I'm playing a video game I'm also listening to a podcast. I have even become the guy who wears his headphones in the grocery store or in the mall. Am I the only one who sometimes feels like my brain is running itself down? Sometimes I feel uncomfortable when there's nothing going on in the background.

    Focus: What do you think causes this addiction to sensory input? I think it's a big problem with my generation(I'm 23) and is going to be far worse for subsequent generations who didn't live in a world where everything was on demand. The closest shit we had back in the day was the Sega Channel, and even then the games were never the ones you wanted.

    I have a few suspicions about the cause. I think for myself it's a fear of living in the present. I kind of like Pressfield's description in the War of Art about "the Resistance". I think I distract myself with these things to pass the time quicker while I am not doing what I really deep down need to do to be happy. To sit still and think about what I should be doing for a long period of time is critical work that my brain/ego tries to get me out of.

    Is there something inherently addictive in media that is so readily available?
     
  2. Nettdata

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  3. bewildered

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    Every time Black Jesus posts in the drunk thread I experience sensory overload.
     
  4. katokoch

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    Focus: Its the person. Otherwise I guess I'm a poor rep for my generation... I'm 22 and I love being out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere with a gun/rod/paddle in hand for the sake of it being the ultimate in peaceful and calm. Seems like it's the only place you can find it now. Sure, I like having the radio going while I'm in my shop or doing boring tasks at work (i.e. data entry), but otherwise I don't have earbuds practically glued into my ears and my phone in my face 24/7. I used to have a roommate who would always be sitting in front of the TV with her laptop out and some sort of music going too. Holy shit is all I can say. I have no idea how you can concentrate on one thing at that point.
     
  5. Juice

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    It's just another form of procrastination and/or self absorption.

    One thing I always wanted to try is a sensory deprivation tank. Joe Rogan is a huge proponent of it and apparently after a while in one, your mind starts going crazy with deep thought.

    Has anyone here tried one?
     
  6. katokoch

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    I am shocked to hear that from him.
     
  7. hooker

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    All coke heads need a break at some point.
     
  8. xrayvision

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    Personally, when I see people doing normal every day things and they are listening to their iPod or something, its like they are wearing a "don't bother me" sign. I get it, if you are sitting on a bus or something, but I think a lot of people do it to avoid social interaction. I think its kind of sad. Don't get me started on people doing that shit while driving.


    When I see parents give their kids an iPod touch or a PSP or something of the like, and they let their little shits use them at restaurants, it makes me irrationally angry. Teach them to sit there and behave. Possibly even engage in conversation. I have never met a kid I liked who always had his/her face buried in a video game from day 1. My little cousin is like this and he is just an obnoxious little asshole with no respect for an adult. Granted, I think its bad parenting that started it all, but you can only pass the buck so long. If I ever spoke to an older relative the way he speaks to his, I would have been smacked until I died. Its not hard to teach kids decent social skills and respect.
     
  9. nogro

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    This is a fascinating subject and one that I have, ironically, managed to think about a lot recently. I`ve noticed that I simply consume vast amounts of media and have come terms with that in several ways, yes, my brain is addicted to constant input. My strategy has become to shift the balance a little; focus and channel your incessant need for input by directing it at more emotionally and intellectually rewarding endeavours, like reading a book and really absorbing its ideas (or simply admiring the prose or story), analyzing the music you love, or even studying. Use this mode of thinking and after a while you`ll actually have some worthwhile output: your professional skills will improve, you`ll appreciate music more, and your brain will be more active analyzing, arguing or integrating all those new thoughts and ideas you`re reading about. You might even write.

    However (this has almost become a trope), yeah, don`t give your 5-year old child a fucking Nintendo 3DS and then ignore it at restaurant. We are slowly moving towards a society where the signal:noise ratio will continue to get increasingly fucked, and it is of the essence to hold on to the pleasure of external silence. That`s why I admire people who actively go out into the woods to chill out; even though I love to run I still do it in the middle of the city with my Ipod.

    EDIT: Realized I kind of missed the focus regarding the origins of this sensory addiction; I have no good explanation but the theory about it being a distraction to avoid thinking about more meaningful things makes sense. Also, it just seems that this is an inexorable part of our advancement as an incredibly technology-reliant society.
     
  10. ASL

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    I feel like the cause could be people's fear of being alone. It can be hard to sit somewhere by yourself, even just reading or having a coffee. The noise created by iPods, computers, phones etc can make feelings of loneliness go away, or at least be diminished.

    I'm as guilty as the next person of over using these niceties, but I do spend a lot of time outside as far from people and things as I can get. I love just being under the stars or on a cliff alone with my thoughts.
     
  11. Nettdata

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    At least once a year I have, and I mean HAVE, to go on a "time out" trip where you can just unplug and get away from it all.

    Typically this is a hunting trip in the middle of November, where you just go and sit in the woods in the snow/cold for a week, 10 hours a day. No ipod, no phone, no internet... just you and nature.

    It takes a good 2-3 days just to unwind and begin to enjoy it... and then there's usually a couple of days of just thinking about shit... short term weird shit, long term, etc.

    And it's not the same as going and sleeping on a beach for a week... it seems that when you're cold or in an otherwise uncomfortable environment, it helps with the thought process and you just don't sleep the week away.

    The personal introspection that comes from it is cleansing and refreshing, and more people should do it.
     
  12. lostalldoubt86

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    I get away from all the sensory overload as much as possible. I mean, I always have a book with me. But besides the book, I only listen to my IPod at work if I remember to charge it, I have specific TV shows I watch and I ignore the TV other than that (except for pilot season. I will check out new shows.), and I don't wander aimlessly on the internet.

    Then again, I can't study without Pandora, and I'm on this message board more than I probably should be.
     
  13. dubyu tee eff

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    This is a constant struggle for me. If I don't have something to keep my senses occupied, I get very antsy and restless. It's been years since I've fallen asleep without either something to watch or listen to. I feel like if I don't have some kind of stimulation I start to think myself crazy. Basically, my brain goes off the rails jumping from topic to topic until I get frustrated with my inability to focus on anything. Even when I shower I bring my laptop in the bathroom with me to play music for those 10 minutes or so. On line at the grocery store I break out my smartphone and read a few pages of whatever book I'm reading through the kindle app.

    The benefit is that I consume a huge amount of things, whether it be music, books, tv shows, movies, etc. I feel like all the things I constantly consume has made me a more cultured and knowledgable person. The thing is, I don't feel like I'm missing anything because I do still come up with ideas and have life altering self-reflection moments, which is what I presume the benefit is of sensory deprivation. I am also about the least stressed person on the planet. When I'm forcibly deprived of sensory input, I do get restless, but never worried or anxiety ridden.

    So I guess my question is, to the people who do practice sensory deprivation of some sort, can you guys articulate what it is I'm missing? I feel like I'm not missing anything, but I haven't done it so who knows.
     
  14. TX.

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    I think the sensory overload/jumping from topic to topic prevents people from really exploring a subject or activity in depth. How deeply can you understand or master something if you're constantly jumping from topic to topic? My favorite example is kids and extracurricular activities. It seems like the trend now is for kids to be involved with as many activities and organizations as possible. The parent drives them to a different lesson or practice every day during the week, and two additional ones on Saturday morning. This continues through high school so that the kid has plenty to put on college applications and appear "well-rounded" (I hate that term). How well can you learn something if you're spreading yourself so thin? If you stick to only one or two activities more than once or twice a week, then the child can master them and really learn something from the experience.

    If people are letting their attention flit from one object to another, I don't think they're really absorbing and appreciating what's in front of them. And, if they aren't scratching beneath the surface, what's the point?

    Also, if you can't simply sit in silence and turn off your thoughts, how do you stay calm and de-stress?
     
  15. dubyu tee eff

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    Personally, it's not that I'm constantly jumping from one subject to another, it's that I need something to occupy my brain. I can study for hours on end no problem and I am approaching what most would consider a mastery of the subject of economics, so getting beyond scratching the surface isn't a problem. Then again, if you're talking about kids who are doing a 1000 things and not focusing on any one, then I hear you.

    As far as turning my thoughts off and sitting in silence, I can't do it without getting restless, bored, and annoyed. At the same time, I am probably the most calm person I know and only on very rare occasions (say before a big exam) do I genuinely feel stressed out. If I feel I am stressed to a point of inability to concentrate I just put on some soothing music or something to distract me. Depriving my senses during a stressful time would only make me worry even more.
     
  16. Harry Coolahan

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    I disagree. Gaining mastery of a subject takes a long time, flitting from topic to topic is not going to distract from that.

    I read a ton of news articles through RSS, Reddit, forums, etc. If anything, this has given me a much stronger understanding of certain topics. It allows me to read a broad range of topics, hundreds of them even. If someone talks about a topic I'm not familiar with, I probably have still read enough about it to understand what they are saying, contextualize it, and learn from it. Without that fingertip feel, whatever they said would be gibberish.

    For example, reading Marginal Revolution and Schneier on Security for the last few years has taught me more about economics and security than reading in-depth books ever did. Most of their blog posts are fewer than 500 words. This is because instead of teaching theory and proving beyond a doubt that the theory is sound, they simply take tons of examples from everyday life and explain how economics/security is all around us.

    At the same time, it does take time to switch gears. I just started reading War & Peace, and I'm already losing momentum after 50 pages. A couple summers ago I went traveling and was without internet and I read Don Quixote and a book about Greece that was also about 1,000 pages in three months.

    Having a balance for both types of stimulus is probably ideal. Yes, maybe it is bad that we stick headphones on our heads and tune out the world, if we do that every time we leave the house. On the other hand, we listen to more music (art!) than any other generation in the history of the world. I think that is pretty damn cool.
     
  17. TX.

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    I should've made your quote a little more focused, but this is the part I was mostly responding to. I'm not picking on you at all because I know many people like this, including myself. But, I interpreted it as jumping from subject to subject to become more "cultured and knowledgeable". It just seems prevalent among people my age to describe themselves as being really into something or really experienced, but in reality they know very little about a dozen different subjects. They have a constant stream of places to go and things to do, but there's no trend linking them together. It's a scatterplot of random crap they're "really into to". That irks me because I feel like it's shallow and inauthentic. Maybe it's just the people I encounter on an everyday basis.
     
  18. ghettoastronaut

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    Well there's a continuum. There are people who pronounced themselves experts on stuttering after having seen The King's Speech (which was good, I guess, but if you've known someone who was a profound stutterer, it still didn't quite capture the profound awkwardness and pain of hearing someone stop on a particular word). Or people who just repeat what Wikipedia says about something. Reading material from reputable and original sources, even if it's not in spectacular depth, is a hell of a lot more preferable to the former.

    Me, I'm in the process of trying to become an expert on something. If you want "sensory overload", try spending a day with the people I work with. I'm pretty sure some of them are robots. Tomorrow, I'm going to get grilled on, among other things, this: <a class="postlink" href="http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/37/2/577.full" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/37/2/577.full</a>

    The person grilling me on it will, without prompting or even having to review, dissect the recommendations by delving into the studies conducted, their quality, and external validity. He will fill them in with his own experience, the prescribing patterns of physicians, practicality, so forth. He will then ask the basic pathophysiologic mechanisms behind what he's asked; I might give a textbook answer, and he'll correct with the real answer. Most of the information he'll share isn't written down anywhere: it just exists in an ether that I didn't even know existed. He shares this information at a speed faster than most humans listen and at a volume lower than most humans can hear. You will have to recall it again later.

    This has happened every single day, on entirely different topics, for a month.

    So frankly, when I hear people talk about "sensory overload" being having an ipod playing in the background, I'm not impressed. That's background music. That's just fucking crickets. That's not "sensory overload", that's just avoiding sensory underload.
     
  19. dubyu tee eff

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    It's a fair point. One of my things is music in that I listen to an absolute fuckton of it. I have this strange urge to want to have listened to all of the great music ever created. It's insanity, I know, but my curiosity gets the best of me over and over to the point that I have insanely long lists of artists I want to explore and pretty much always have a bunch of downloaded music I haven't gotten around to listening to yet. It would happen over and over that I would listen to an album once and then forget all about it. It got to a point where I decided I had to listen to an album at least 3 times so I now keep a list of albums I haven't listened to 3 times yet. This all sounds insane, I'm sure, but I still have artists/songs/albums I absolutely love and listen to and dissect repeatedly.

    Same deal with various academic subjects. Before I die, I want to know everything. This is obviously impossible, but I've picked a specialty (econ) and I read blogs, articles, and pop science books about other subjects. I'll never be a master at evolutionary biology, but I've still managed to learn quite a bit.

    My point is, ok there are many things I only have a shallow understanding of, but isn't a shallow understanding better than no knowledge at all?

    This is getting way too self-indulgent as I'm sure most people aren't half as insane as I am. I'd like to think your point applies to a lot of people, but not me. I guess what I'm trying to express is that maybe there is a good and bad way to go about bombarding yourself with information/culture and maybe I've found a good way?
     
  20. Whothehell

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    For me, the main reason for consuming media is simply "because it's there".

    When I go for my daily walk, I bring my mp3 player because I have it. When it's dead or I forget, no big deal, I go anyway.

    When I'm at home cooking supper at home I have the TV on, but if it's not I'm not gonna go through withdrawl.

    I think this is just a by-product of availablility, is it really an addiction to some people?