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Blackberry Grumble


I recently bought a new Blackberry and I love it; I love being able to send and receive emails wherever I am. In fact, I’m in the odd position of wishing I received more emails, so I could use my Blackberry more. Before this starts turning into an advert for Blackberry, I have noticed an interesting side-effect of constantly being in touch. That little device, so shiny and glossy, with its flashing green light (oh, the thrill when it turns red because then I have a message) is a constant reminder that there are other things going on in the world – there is an “out there”, where things are happening and where people may, even now, be preparing to get in touch with me. As much as I love it, this Morrisian device – both beautiful and useful – is, I’ve begun to notice, something of a distraction.

Around forty years ago, researchers first discovered something they called “microexpressions” – tiny, mostly involuntary, and extremely quick expressions, often lasting for as little as one quarter of a second. These microexpressions were difficult to fake and gave real insight into whether the subject was telling the truth.It is possible that these microexpressions combine with the well documented phenomenon of perception without awareness to give us that “sixth sense” feeling we get sometimes, when we suspect that someone isn’t being totally honest or that something isn’t quite right.

Of course, in order to register the fact that something isn’t right, you have to be paying attention – to yourself and how you’re feeling, if nothing else. However, increasingly we seem to be paying less and less attention to what we’re actually doing. I’ve talked about this previously, when I mentioned the perils of multi-tasking and it strikes me that the more connected we are, the harder it is to be fully present in whatever it is we’re doing at any given moment because of that ever present distraction. And the less present we are, the more likely we are to miss things.

If you’re worried that this might be happening to you, try this experiment next time you have a day off. The night before, go round your house and cover up all the clocks. Turn off the computer, turn off the mobile and have a day without any screens or contact with the outside world – no TV, no radio, no internet.Eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired. Really be present in whatever activity you’re doing and pay attention both to the task and to how you feel. You might be surprised by what you notice and please do let me know how you get on. In the meantime, I need to go – I’ve just noticed that the little red light is flashing...

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