With today’s constant media barrage of bad news, people feel bad enough already and don’t want anything that makes them feel worse, says anthropologist-turned-brand-strategist Cheryl Swanson. With all the info coming at us 24/7, “We are processing information at 400 times the rate of our Renaissance ancestors.” This is a new human task that we haven’t had time to adapt to yet – physically or mentally. That’s why we’re getting tech-related health problems, like carpal tunnel, and maybe even mental and neurological problems like attention-deficit disorder. Naturally our attention is fraying – we are whipsawed by stimuli!

“Moreover, with that 400 times more information did not come 400 more hours in a day. So, we steal that time from sleep, both deliberately (by working late into the night) and not (by being too wound up to drift off). Hence another big trend: The burgeoning sleep industry, with new pills, pillows, and in the big hotels, even “sleep concierges” all trying to help us get the ZZZs we need.

“Another byproduct of trying to pack too much into the day is the erosion of dinnertime. This, of course, is nothing new. In the ’60s, dinner was (supposedly) 45 minutes long. By the ’90s, it had shrunk to 15 minutes.” As Swanson’s investigators traveled the country, dropping in on real families, they found the sit-down dinner had evaporated almost entirely. “It is now basically five minutes,” says Swanson. “And it’s not even sitting down.”

Families (or chunks of them) eat standing up around the kitchen counter. When parents are not available, kids prepare themselves “latchkey dinners.” (Advertising Age 11/13/07; via Church Leaders Intelligence Report)

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