Pumping the silence with noisy, meaningless fumes
It’s finally happened. One of the last quiet places left on planet earth, once left to the rare beauty of silence, has been ruined by yet another television screen.
It’s called PumpTV, “Australia’s first and only digital television network” and it pumps out news, sport and weather updates, four times a day, everyday through tiny television screens attached to the top of the petrol pump.
Yes, the petrol station, a place where even mobile phones are banned, has fallen victim to noise and distraction. Goodbye silence, hello just another example of our inability to do anything without being bombarded by some form of on-screen entertainment.
PumpTV cheerily announces plans to reach millions more customers in the coming months on their website, but this is anything but great news for our collective psyche. If we can’t even fill up our cars with petrol in silence, what hope do we have for squeezing in some quiet time throughout the rest of our lives?
The argument here is not against the importance of keeping up with the news cycle, everyone should encourage their inner news junkie. But how much are you really missing out on between the time it takes you to shut down the ignition, get out of the car, stick the petrol in the car, pay and get back in?
I reckon it’s anything between five and seven minutes, depending on the queue of people in front of you. That’s the equivalent amount of time it takes to make a cup of tea, catch a lift one floor down or defrost a piece of chicken in the microwave. You’d hardly call that a big gap, so why do we need to be kept entertained?
The answer is we don’t. We’ve become society who have completely forgotten how to do anything without a side serving of entertainment and those rare few minutes pumping petrol should be left for silence and introspection.
British researcher Aric Sigman calls it screen addiction. He recently said a whole generation of kids between 10 and 12 years of age, spend an average of 6.1 hours per day in front of a computer screen. But it’s not just kids. Consider how many people you know who check their phones before they even get of bed in the morning.
Silence actually plays a very important role in our health and wellbeing. Buddhist monks have long associated periods of silence and meditation with improved clarity of mind and focus and we’d do well to remember this amid the chaos of our digital lives.
Leave your news updates for the car radio. Everyone needs time to switch off from the rat race, even if it’s just five minutes at the petrol bowser.
Follow me on Twitter: @lucyjk
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