What Is Your Favorite Shared Experience?

Humans are a social species. We like to connect with other humans, to share ideas and experiences. A shared experience, like a movie or a concert, is more enjoyable than the same activity done in isolation.

As such, things we can do together have a special place in our psyches. We remember where we were when a impactful moment happens, one that everyone knows. The moon landing. 9/11. The space shuttle Challenger explosion.

Often these events can be traumatic, like the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. or JFK. But they can also be a cultural event, like the final episode of a TV show like M*A*S*H or Seinfeld. Or a movie like The Avengers, or a sporting event like the Super Bowl.

Personally, I don’t know much about Game of Thrones. I’ve never read any of the books or seen any of the TV shows. But I felt a sense of loss as the final few episodes aired recently.

The shows aren’t going anywhere. Now that they are all done, I can binge watch the whole thing any time I want. But the communal feeling that viewers had, knowing that a large percentage of society was paying attention, cannot be recaptured.

I wish I had been part of a viewing party. Or been able to talk to friends or co-workers about what shocking thing happened last night. Or been able to appreciate the late night talk show jokes, or read any of the seemingly endless blogs or magazine articles dissecting every minor detail of each of the last few episodes.

Those moments, of a shared community, makes us feel like we are part of more than just our tiny selves.

When have you felt a part of a cultural moment? What is your favorite shared experience?

Related questions: What is your favorite experience? Where do shared ideas exist? Why do we feel the need to belong? What do we have in common? What makes a community?

Is Our Attention Fractured?

How much is too much?

In many ways, we live in a golden age of media content. Thanks to education, more people know more about more topics than ever before. And thanks to the Internet, production and distribution are cheaper and easier than ever.

It would take you a lifetime to watch all the shows and movies on Netflix. Would you like to listen to a podcast on cryptozoology? You have your choice between dozens. You can get lost at your local library, in e-books or the old-fashioned print kind.

No generation in history has had access to so much. To put it another way, there have never been so many demands on our attention as there are now.

What does that mean for us?

There’s no reason to ever have an unproductive moment. Do you have a spare moment waiting in the grocery checkout line? You can scroll through social media. Riding the bus to work? Read an article from that niche magazine you like. Zoning out while on the treadmill at the gym? Listen to a workout mix from a streaming music service.

All this content means we can consume more. In theory, that means we are exposed to more, and more diverse, stories. But do we need time to actually be able to process this information? Rather than just going on to the next book, the next podcast, the next article, the next blog, is it necessary to take some time to internalize, to place the information in context? In addition, if we want to make content ourselves we need to alternate between consumption and production.

Moreover, in child development, isn’t it necessary that children learn to entertain themselves? How can that be done if they are constantly being entertained by other sources?

Occasionally, it is only through absence that we come to appreciate the world. Your favorite food tastes even better if you haven’t had it for a year. The warmth of summer feels all the better after the cold of winter. To that end, do we need to spend some time NOT reading or listening to stories, binging TV shows, or watching movies in order to appreciate them all the more?

Is some downtime required? How do we choose between the multitude of demands on us? Is our attention fractured?

Related questions: Are we too busy? How can we maintain wonder? How do you set priorities? What makes something memorable? What are you willing to sacrifice?