Did you know a male moth can smell a female moth from 7 miles away?
I love that fact. But no, that’s not the topic of this essay. I just obviously had to include it when I learned about it.
What’s more interesting to me about moths is their propensity to fly directly into their fiery death, which is where we get the saying like a moth to a flame.
It’s not just fire that moths are attracted to, but any light, as all of us have experienced with our lamps and porch lights at home. Scientists don’t actually know why moths are attracted to light – at least not with any uniform consensus. Some believe they’re drawn to the light because they use moon and star light to navigate when flying, and the fire or artificial light disorients their navigation. Others believe that candle light contains the same frequencies of light given off by female moths’ sex hormones, leaving the male moths trying to have sex with the candle, getting burned (literally and figuratively) in the process.
I don’t actually care why moths are drawn to light at their own demise.
What I do care about is how we’ve become much like the moths, with social media, click-bait headlines, and the train wreck that is modern media functioning as our flame.
It seems the more heated the political and social discourse becomes, the more we can’t turn our heads away from it. We’re rewiring our brains to obsessively need that next notification to appear, that next political bombshell to drop, or that next celebrity to get caught.
Are we all going insane?
Know that I’m the pot calling the kettle black as I type this. I’m no more immune to it than you are, and have had my share of moments where my worst self comes out, driven by all of the above. Why do we continue flying into the flame knowing that it eventually burns us?
I don’t know the answers, but I do know what’s missing when it happens.
Lack of Perspective
I’ll be honest – when I read a Tweet from the leader of the free world that is barely legible, I sometimes feel like
the world my world is caving in. The focus intensely moves to me – my frustration, my anger – as if the other 8 billion people in the world are revolving around my personal state. Isn’t that ridiculous when we think about it? For the sake of simplicity I will chalk our self-centeredness up to our innate desire to survive, which served us well for most of human history. But that desire becomes a double-edged sword today. We seem to collectively take personal offense to a global narrative. It’s ineffective at best and unhealthy at worst.
Lack of Empathy
People become objects when they’re wearing the mask of a web browser. The sentient nature of humans is removed and replaced with a screen. So much abuse goes on in the digital world, because we’re not forced to face the fact that a living, breathing, feeling person – built on an entire lifetime of experiences – sits on the other side. People react online in ways that they would never do in person because there’s no consequences – just a backlit rectangle that eventually lights up again.
Lack of Mission
You know what I love about someone singularly focused on a goal? Their ability to not be distracted by shiny objects that are antithetical to their mission. I see this on a regular basis with entrepreneurs, and it’s refreshing to come across people that could largely care less what the discourse du jour is, because it doesn’t impact what they’re trying to accomplish. I think so much of our distracted culture is driven by a lack of something else to put our energy into. That’s not to say we should all be chasing some passion, but if we can’t find enjoyment in work for the sake of work, then we’re left with notifications and headlines to chase.
The global conversation changes everyday, and will only change quicker with new media, apps, and outlets. If we don’t face that fact now that we aren’t wired to operate like this, we may find ourselves leading lives anchored by bright screens, frustration, and an incessant itch for the next red dot. That may not be as fatal as the moth to the flame, but it may as well be.