If you are suffering from 21st century over load well don’t worry. It seems you’re not the only one. Not according to Matt Haig’s new book Notes On A Nervous Planet anyway, which is currently enjoying a stint on the best seller list. It appears that Haig, like many of us is also struggling with occupying a primitive body in a digital, super charged world. The book is in some ways a how to guide in surviving the modern world. How do we deal with so much change when we as human beings don’t really like change all that much? This is one of the many topics he attempts to tackle. Haig asks, “How can we live in a mad world, without ourselves going mad?”
Now I’m going to be honest, some of the facts in this book are frightening. Some might even bring on a panic attack, which is exactly the opposite of what Haig is trying to achieve. He is brutally honest about the effects of over exposure to social media, lack of sleep, a 24 hour news cycle and an ever increasing addiction to smart phones. So much so that on the second night of reading it I went to bed, too late of course and began feeling very anxious. I thought about all the terrible habits I’ve picked up that are slowly killing me and worse still I really enjoy most of them. I didn’t sleep very well that night. As a self confessed over thinker just like Haig, I began to over analyse these facts. Haig uses the Shakespeare quote very effectively here saying, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” Some of the scary facts that I obsessed over were about technology and the way in which we are using it to frighten the lives out of ourselves. He cites one very successful marketing book that says the best way to sell products to consumers is by using fear, doubt and uncertainty. The more unfulfilled we feel the more we buy and so the world keeps turning. Or so they would have us believe.
Perhaps the most depressing fact I discovered was that the CEO of Netflix believes his biggest competitor, is not other companies like Amazon or HBO but in fact sleep. Yes sleep is the thing they are trying to fight against. Comforting isn’t it? Makes you begin to understand why so many are struggling with mental health problems and why as Haig points out, the whole world is in fact having a collective panic attack. Basically it’s that good old never enough feeling we’re all trying to fight. Never enough time, never enough things, never enough money. Surely the next click, the next purchase or box set will fix it but strangely enough it doesn’t. Panic breeds more panic so perhaps its time to slow down, breath and reboot. Or as Haig would say just “add a comma to your day”