If before covid-19 you already suspected that your time was scarce, that you could barely fulfill your daily tasks, and that your cell phone increasingly dominated your existence, life 100% indoors must have enhanced these sensations even more. Will we be able to better manage this time in the resumption?
This perception of “not getting the job done” is not, in fact, pandemic news. Perhaps it is another symptom of our way of producing and thinking in the 21st century, something that some thinkers call the life of performance and performance, based on the demand of the person to be always hyperconnected, to be multitasking and to live in a permanent state of euphoria and happiness.
But all of this tires, wears out, stresses and can depress us. This pressure that comes from us to produce all the time (even during leisure time) can drain no what the South Korean philosopher Byung Chul Han, who lives and works in Berlin, characterizes it as “society of tiredness”, the title of his best-known book. By the way, Han has just released a new volume available only in German Absurdities: Upheavals in the world of life, in free translation “No Things: Breaks in Today’s World” ()
In a published interview Last week at El País, Han explains that the cell phone, created to give people greater freedom, has become an object of digital imprisonment. For him, the world of things that can be touched (objects) would be dissolving into the world of information (not things), which start to dictate our consumption desires. Data and information have become obsessions in our lives, having more importance than traditional objects.
It is curious to think that if we ask any young person today what they most want as a gift, the answer will be the cell phone, the object whose basic function is to access data, information and contacts. For them, there is almost no difference between “digital world” and “real world”. And it’s the cell phone that makes this fusion all the time.
The cell phone is the point of work and leisure. He is the article that consolidates this domination. For Han, the “like” became a kind of “digital amen”, but instead of asking for forgiveness, we ask for more and more attention! For the author, social networks create a cult of self-obsession, a movement of narcissism and exhibitionism that can bury human relationships.
Han gives some clues as to what we can think of for this post-pandemic revival. For him, it would be important to cultivate a closer contact with everyday life and value rituals that reinforce community living, as opposed to growing individualism. Recovering habits such as going to school or work, having lunch with friends, making small talk, among others, could be a way out.
Chaotic management in the pandemic
In another recent article from El País, columnist Sergio Fanjul (the same one who interviewed Chul Han) analyzes the chaotic management of our time, which has only worsened with the pandemic.
In our free time, we don’t rest and, yes, we try to produce even more. It’s working more, consuming more, studying more and living more experiences (to post more on the networks). The paradox of technology would be that, if on the one hand, it allows us to do more things in less time, on the other hand, it can intoxicate us with excessive activities and information, interfering with our focus and concentration. It is increasingly difficult to separate what is work from what is leisure. The mirage of perfect productivity is further removed when we realize that it is not, in fact, achievable, and the feeling remains that we are always owing ourselves.
Producing more does not mean living better and feeling good. We have limits and we need rest for body and mind. Living afflicted because there is no time for everything is not liberating, it is distressing, and it can hinder our decision-making.
On the way back: right to time
The 21st century, as opposed to the 20th century, which was the century of the right to work, could become the century of the right to time. Thinking about it, how can we get back to work and our routines after the pandemic?
Perhaps reserving more time for life outside the networks and keeping a greater distance from cell phones is one of the ways. Looking sideways and each day can be better than just looking ahead, always looking for the promised light at the end of the tunnel. Taking time for yourself and thinking of leisure as leisure (not as accumulating additional skills) is another interesting pillar. And, why not, have the right to do nothing at times, saving your time for yourself, without such haste and urgency.
Who you know, post pandemic, can we learn to make a smoother management of time and life? In this sense, come back calmly, return little by little, reserve the right, from time to time, to do nothing and remember that, quoting the Spanish writer and poet Caballero Bonald, who died that year (and mentioned by Fanjul), we are the time we have left to go. And what do you want from now on?