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Too much noise … I think

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I know that advertising is important and generates much-needed revenue, but to me all this stimulation is just too much!

Neon signs light up the night sky at a shopping mall. Picture: ‘deranho’ from Pixabay

A MASSIVE chunk of my school career is a blank; most of it a blur. The reason, I suspect, is that for a lot of the time in school, I was daydreaming.

I am a certified daydreamer. When I am being bombarded with information I tend to escape to my happy place, deep inside the burrows of my brain.

It’s possible that I am not the only one. I say this because in our classrooms back then there were posters and charts on every wall – sometimes even on either side of the blackboard.

Maybe they were there because the teachers knew that as children we’d get bored sometimes and tune out occasionally, but with the charts all around us, we wouldn’t just be staring off into space, we’d be looking at pictures or slogans related to something educational, some information related to their subject.

Now the world has become like those classrooms. These days there are posters, screens, logos, billboards and even beeping notifications on our devices calling for our attention. And the bombardment is incessant. Try reading an article online on many websites and there will be flickering, flashing animations, pop-ups and scrolling banners all around the screen.

I know that advertising is important and generates much-needed revenue, but to me all this stimulation is just too much! It sends me tearing off to my brain burrows in search of a break.

On a recent international flight – a trek of 13 hours, non-stop – I caught myself searching for something to watch on the on-board entertainment system. I scrolled through movies, television shows and music playlists, back and forth, up and down and diagonally both ways for what must have been 40 minutes.

Eventually I gave up, took a detour to my brain burrows, and took a nap.

When I got to the Far East, I was “entertained” by my hosts when they took me to a novelty store called Don Don Donkie. Talk about overstimulation! This store has everything needed to short-circuit a brain, pulsating music, flashing lights, narrow aisles, promotions being flashed on monitors and posters, products and people galore.

Within minutes of entering the store, the majority of the circuits in the right hand hemisphere of my brain were fried and I zoned out, once again diving for my brain burrows.

Look, let’s be fair all this stimulation on offer through advertising and entertainment is not intended to send us to our burrows, I’m sure that somewhere (in a perfect word, if it exists) these bombardments are simply meant to help by exposing us to as many options as possible in the shortest possible time, so that we can thereby make ‘informed’ decisions.

Just like the new AI bots out there, like Microsoft’s CoPilot and OpenAI’s ChatGPT, offering ‘free’ services to make things easier for us.

Of concern, however, is that a new study has found that ChatGPT has been linked to declining academic performance and memory loss. The study revealed that “ Increased reliance on ChatGPT was associated with higher levels of procrastination and memory loss, and a negative impact on academic performance”.

In short, the excessive use of Artificial Intelligence in academic work might lead to detrimental effects on learning behaviours and outcomes.

Wait … Eish, I must have zoned out again. What was I saying before I became distracted by Artificial Intelligence? Oh yes … I was talking about making informed decisions after being inundated with cascades of information.

Which brings us to Wednesday, May 29 this year when, after sifting through all the messages, seeing all the posters, being handed all the flyers and watching all the debates, speeches and interviews on television and those shared on social media, South Africans are going to have to decide – for themselves, if they still know who they are – who is capable, responsible and selfless enough to lead the country and ALL its people for the next four-year cycle.

Yes, I intentionally wrote that adjective above in capital letters, to artificially influence the reader to take special note that leadership of a nation is not about benefiting some while neglecting others. Leadership should take EVERYONE into account.

There’s an enormous responsibility that comes with leadership. In fact, I read something to that effect while ‘doom scrolling’ through social media the other day.

In one of his blogs, a LinkedIn user called ‘Bryce P’ writes, “The most important thing for a leader is to be a role model. That means setting the example and inspiring others to do great things. It’s not about giving orders or demanding perfection – it’s about showing others what’s possible and helping them reach their full potential.”

Is it just me, or does it actually seem as if far too many South Africans have been daydreaming since being liberated in the 90s?

While our leaders – and opposition parties, by the way – could have inspired the nation to roll up our sleeves and do something for and with South Africa, we seem to have darted off to the perceived safety of our burrows.

What a tragic waste of potential.

It was Carl Jung that said, “Every human life contains a potential, if that potential is not fulfilled, then that life was wasted.”

In a nutshell, before making a cross at the end of May, we have to learn to tune out all the noise so that we can tell the difference between ‘promises’ and ‘promising’.

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