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  • Lee-Anne Carter

Productivity Porn

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

I hesitated to make this topic my first blog. After all, there are so many topics to write about. Especially in the world of trend forecasting, or simply in my own world of experience. But it seemed important. Actually, it is extremely important. And in this current time, this strange, surreal and unprecedented time of global pandemic, I felt it necessary to write down my take on it. As an experienced Trend Forecaster I have been researching connection, technology, the impact of isolation, the associated mental health issues and the increasing awareness of what solitude can do to a mindset, for well over 10 years now. The extreme "always on" world of technological connection that we inhabit has been tentatively, and sometimes not so tentatively, attributed to a sharp increase in mental health issues - the world over. The impact has been unprecedented, and the strain on global health systems phenomenal. In Japan, there is even a name for an extreme form of confinement, which has been attributed to mainly young males - hikikomori - which means "pulling inward, being confined or acute social withdrawal". There is much being made of our retreat behind the screens of the digital world, the disconnection this brings in a normal framework, and the desperate need for reconnection, or the "Return of Humanity" as I like to term it.

And now that we have all been thrown into an extreme form of isolation on a global scale, with only technology to keep us connected in most cases, the stakes are even higher. But this is not what I wanted to discuss. What has me most concerned at the moment, is the steady rise of "self help" gurus that have popped up on-line. Qualified or not. The social media space is filled to bursting with people offering ways to keep oneself occupied during this cray cray time. That in itself is a wonderful thing, people reaching out trying to assist and proffer up interesting ways to engage and keep oneself sane in the middle of this sci-fi movie we seem to have found ourselves starring in.

But while the intention may be heartfelt, the end result may be soul destroying.

I recently read an incredibly well-rounded article outlining ways to deal with extreme isolation, what effectively we would go through, and how to manage the fear, emotion and complete disruption we would experience, from someone that had actually lived and breathed it, and trust me the first step was not to participate in an online training video. It was to simply take stock of what we are dealing with - on a personal level. Makes complete sense, no? We will all experience the situation differently, depending on our personal situation. There is no "one size fits all" isolation solution. In the article the writer coined the term "Productivity Porn", and I loved it. I had been reading- as has nearly everyone else in the world - loads and loads of online news, reports and general chit chat to occupy my time, and I was increasingly frustrated with all of the proffered lists and ways that, according to the on-line masses, we should be dealing with isolation. To a fault, most of them were about getting out of bed, showering, starting the day as normal - some with exercise, some without, remote working, learning to cook a new recipe, write a blog (Ok, I am aware of the irony of that!), write a book, clean out the cupboards, spend an hour on the treadmill, home school the children... you get the idea. Lists, and lists of ways to remain productive Every. Second. Of. Isolation. However well-meaning, there just did not seem to be a balance. It seemed absolutely everyone, from celebs, to influencers (whom I have my own thoughts on), to the average Joe or Joanna down the road, was up for telling us we had to remain relentlessly busy, occupied and productive -and they had the perfect agenda for it. The reasoning behind this onslaught of isolation activity was that, to a fault, we had to keep it all as normal as possible.

Seriously, let's be scathingly honest with ourselves here. This is not normal. These are not normal times. What is normal about an estimated 1.3 billion people - or a fifth of the world's population if the numbers are accurate - being in enforced isolation. Who has ever experienced this? Who sincerely has the tools to deal with this? No-one, I would venture to say. So why is it the human default, with all well-meaning intention, to tell us that we need to occupy every moment of our time with some task or other?

The proliferation of productivity porn, has to - if not stop - be managed somewhat better. What might seem feasible to some, is not manageable to others - and could well result in yet another form of "social anxiety media" or #instafear - the fear of not measuring up . There is a point in all of this where we need to just breathe - and yes, I am aware of the irony of this. But I also actually believe that there are certain things outside of our control, signs and symbols that are sent to us ( it is my job after all to explore things that are incredible, if not downright bizarre, and to analyze patterns and signs), and there could be a case made for this pandemic - focusing on the respiratory system as it does - being a way of making us recognize the need to stand still and breathe. It has literally taken our breath away, and that speaks to me of an important message that is being offered up, if we would only just listen. It is time to stop. To stop the onslaught of always on, always faster, always more, always connected, always busy.

Our response to this? To overwhelmingly keep going at 100 miles per hour - even in isolation. Is there not something to be looked at here? We have been put on hold by forces greater than ourselves, we have been forced to stand still, we have been forced to reassess, we have been forced to acknowledge that the most important life force we have is to take a breath.

The signs are there - we just need to be able to slow down and read them.






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