The overstimulation generation


Photo by Darien Funk

Today’s generations live in a time of constant, seemingly never-ending stimulation. The positives and negatives of such stimulation are something heavily debated. 

So, what does “over-stimulation” refer to? In discussing overstimulation, I am referring to the idea that, in today’s world, our brain is constantly presented with unending stimuli and is thus given very little time to reflect, think, and be productive. 

Some examples of these stimuli in the modern world include message notifications, Instagram likes and tags, Snapchats, emails, click-bate YouTube videos, Netflix, and, of course, Twitter. All these stimuli being available to us in seconds via our smartphones. 

Some argue that it may be true, we are overstimulated, but that fact may not necessarily be a bad thing and further, it represents the new realities of a highly technological society.

In rebuttal, some argue that overstimulation harms our productivity and thus our ability to get anything done in the day. It is also argued that the constant stimulation makes it harder for us to take in the simpler day-to-day aspects of life and makes our days nothing more than scrolling on a phone.  

One person who believed overstimulation to be borderline dystopia was the famous science-fiction author Ray Bradbury who wrote about it in his now-classic book, Fahrenheit 451

The book follows protagonist Guy Montag who navigates a world in which books have been banned and are burned by the firefighters of the future. In this world, people no longer read but instead watch television and take “happy” drugs. 

Some examples of this over-stimulated world include Montag’s house in which every wall has televisions playing sitcoms, transits covered with shows and ads, and walks without music or mobile televisions are nonexistent. Society is so addicted to stimulation that if one stops for even a second, they are overcome with depression and suicidal thoughts.  

Bradbury’s main criticism of this society is the fact that ideas are no longer challenged and critical thinking is something that has been abolished. One of the book’s most famous quotes relay’s Bradbury’s criticism, 

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered occasionally. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?’”

The world outlined by Bradbury presents an extreme, like most dystopian novels. Despite this, I do believe we are dangerously flirting with such a society and, at this moment, find ourselves at a key fork in the road. 

Many of the aspects of overstimulation that Bradbury argued are becoming more of a reality each day. One example occurs in the echo chamber effect created by today’s social media apps. 

As per the infamous algorithm, all users are presented with things that ensure they keep using the apps. For political content, one is only presented with videos, images, and memes that support their personal view. Thus, harming one’s ability to think critically about their own beliefs.

One other aspect relates to our inability to do things without stimuli and thus not give time to reflect on the day and think critically about the world around us. A real-life example is occurring right now in the city of Augsburg, Germany. 

In the city of Augsburg, traffic accidents involving a pedestrian getting hit by a car due to their phones having become so common that the city has installed traffic lights on to the flat parts of a sidewalk. The point is that the light from the ground would flash, thus alerting people looking downwards at their phones that they should not cross. 

So, when faced with such overstimulation, is it now time to bring back some form of Luddism? Probably not. Anything taken in excess is bad and technology is no different. 

Personally, I have deleted all my social media apps except for Facebook. 

The best way I can describe the feeling of doing so is by saying that I feel as if I have left a treadmill that I never even knew I was on. 

To each their own, I recognize such a move is not for everyone. All I would advise is to keep a log of how much one uses these apps and reflect as to if some moderation may be needed.

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