Squirrels are OK, maybe even nice. They’re fun to watch, and outside of getting into bird feeders and occasionally chewing on something, they don’t do too much harm.
Even if you happen to really like squirrels (or maybe if you really hate them), you probably wouldn’t want to waste a lot of time trying to chase them because they are quick and agile, not to mention fearless at great heights.
Nevertheless, many of us now spend our days like a dog running around in circles trying to catch these little critters. It wouldn’t be so bad if we just chased one, but there’s always a new bushy-tailed distraction popping its head up every minute taunting us to chase after it and leave the others behind.
So, we run from one thing to another, which leaves us feeling tired and worn out, like a rat in a maze, running this way and that but never really getting anywhere. There is always more to do than we can possibly do and more to learn than we can possibly learn.
Of course, that’s always been true. But what’s different now is the constant barrage of new information, opportunities and distractions that fill our days, often due to the internet and cell phones.
Social media is the ultimate distraction in the world of squirrels. If you want to waste time and accomplish absolutely nothing, social media is the way to go. There’s always some new tidbit of useless information that chatters at us and tries to distract us from doing anything real or productive with our lives.
That’s what makes it so addictive. Rather than doing something difficult or meaningful, we can chase all these interesting and easy things without having to make any real commitments. It’s easy, fun, addictive and overwhelming.
The internet and social media have totally changed our lives. It used to be that we were limited by the information readily available or easily accessible. Now everything is accessible instantly online and finding the information we want has never been easier.
But at the same time all that information is becoming more and more meaningless. Information can be powerful. But we’re getting too much of it without knowing how to filter it.
That’s what usually happens to me. I’m looking for something online and soon I have 10 tabs open that all look pretty good. The problem is, instead of choosing one and actually reading and applying it, I usually keep looking for something better until I run out of time and have to move on to something else. The result is often nothing more than collecting information but not using it.
So, really, information is only powerful if we use it. The problem is most of the time we’re just chasing information, running from one thing to another with the illusion that we’re catching something.
The fact that we have all this information, choices and power isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that we don’t know how to use it yet. We haven’t been trained properly. We haven’t learned how to manage and filter it all. We haven’t learned how to separate the useful from the distracting, or the significant from the meaningless. Most of all, we haven’t learned that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.
All of us — but especially young people — need this training and discipline. We’ve developed what has the potential to be a tremendously useful tool. Now we just have to learn how to use it properly so it makes our lives better rather than consuming them in an endless squirrel chase.
"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.