Douglas Rushkoff's Five Tips for Fighting 'Present Shock'
The esteemed media critic teaches us how to get our heads out of the present.
Douglas Rushkoff's new book Present Shock argues that the future we've been waiting for is already here; it's just left us all too overwhelmed and distracted to realize it. And unfortunately, this particular future is rather evenly distributed. We're all stuck in this perpetual now together, bombarded by an endless stream of media and status updates and tweets and text messages and Instagrams—all stuff that firmly anchors us in the now.
As he writes in the book, present shock results in "a diminishment of everything that isn't happening right now — and the onslaught of everything that supposedly is." Many critics have warned about the adverse effects of a life saturated with ubiquitous media, but Rushkoff's take is uniquely nuanced—and disturbing. Curious about what we might do to stave off the onslaught of the now, I caught up with Rushkoff at the annual PSFK conference in New York last Friday, where he'd just delivered a talk.
I asked him for just five things that the average tech-addled citizen might do to stave off present shock. He was game.
"Alright, five easy things you can do to combat present shock," he said, pausing only a second before diving right in:
One, try to stay aware of what time of day it is and what cycle of the moon that you're in. Basically try and look out the window once every few hours, and try to look at the night sky each night.
Two, give yourself at least five minutes a day of intentionally uninterrupted time. If you can do it; I know it's hard. I'm asking for five. I believe that if people take five minutes they're going to hunger for more.
Three, try to evaluate how the various websites and applications and platforms you're using make you feel, and determine whether they're making you feel good or not.
Four, attempt to make eye contact with other people occasionally and see what that feels like.
Five, try to consciously engage in something local, whether it's buying food from community supported agriculture, whether it's walking your kid to public school, or investing in a local business as compared to some long-distance thing.
"That's five," he said. "Five easy ones."
Image: Flickr. Transcription by Zach Sokol.