Jason Cochran

Stuff you never knew you never knew


Published on: Blog




27151_10151576054439532_725188865_nPardon the silence. Lately I’ve come down with a case of omnisciencia.

It’s the debilitating state that develops when you try to keep up with everything that’s going on.

That’s my name for it. I invented it by combining the word omniscience, which is the state of knowing everything, with the suffix -ia, to do with afflictions.

My affliction has gone viral, but I know my word for it never will on because omniscience has too many letters in it for most people and Snapchat is easier to use than a dictionary.

But not caring if it goes viral happens to be the first step toward recovery.

Omnisciencia is a condition that leaves sufferers feeling like they’re always falling behind because they’re always being bombarded by things that are outside themselves. Twitter, Instagram, news, status updates, Buzzfeed listicles, Vines—they come tumbling (or Tumblring) in an incessant avalanche. It’s the gnawing anxiety you’re always missing something.

You opt in to an unattainable quest to keep tabs on everything the second you get online. Everyone else is constantly posting breaking news, having such fine meals, decrying bad service, snuggling in contented humblebrag with their new boyfriends, gushing bulletins about the things they’re doing and seeing and learning and the washboard abs that you don’t have—and everyone posts these things as an implied boast. They post partly to reassure themselves they have a handle on things, partly to feed their own omnisciencia, and partly to tell you that you ought to know about their universe, too.

It could be argued that it’s a form of weakness to feel the impulse to post every event and beautiful vision, to keep nothing just for yourself.

It’s definitely a weakness to get on board. But when Random Facebook Friend #418 posts “It’s snowing” and that shows up on my feed, guess what I’m going to do? I’m going to look out the window. I’m going to give in to yet another distraction, because that is what inquisitive people must do. Omnisciencia eats concentration.

How can I hold up under a stream of reminders that I’m falling behind? It’s death by a thousand yardsticks.

I have a pretty severe case. I write about travel and history, so that means my beat covers, oh, only every known place and every known time.

It’s a tiring amount to keep tabs on. Omnisciencia drains a person.

There is no inoculation for the inquisitive. It’s not healthy to crawl under a rock, either. If your interests are big, omnisciencia always threatens to keep you small.

In times past, your experience was a universe of its own. You had a small patch of land, a small subsistence job, a family that hopefully grew larger as you grew older. In those days, the risk was tumbling down the rabbit hole of obsession over your own minor existence. Now, with omnisciencia, your daily experience is honeycombed with rabbit holes into worlds that aren’t yours, not really.

Omnisciencia is our national affliction. Competitive comparison is an American engine. Judging others is the national pastime, the busybody is the national mascot.

So we can never be cured. The best we can do is try not to care quite so much. We can stop monitoring the pulse of everything around us 24/7, and redeem our own personal drive by not being so distractible. We can reassure ourselves that “my journey is my journey.”

It takes resolve to get past omnisciencia, and a self-confidence that sometimes borders on arrogance. It takes work to balance self-treatment with empathy for others. It often requires unplugging to some degree, and unfollowing to a larger degree.

It’s worth it. The more energy you spend tracking everyone else’s journey, the less you’ll have for your own.

I’m working on it.

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There is only 1 comment. i know you want to say something:

  1. Hilary says:

    This definitely strikes a chord.
    Further to my own personal omnisciencia experience I’m also developing a new and somewhat related affliction. I used to be fairly happy to virtually smack down somebody I thought was responsible for casual cruelty, thoughtless commentary or prejudice via any of the channels you list above. But such is the ubiquity of trollery and thoughtless commentary – type first, think later (or not at all) – I notice I’m slowly losing the appetite to answer back. Not that I’m becoming desensitised – I still regularly find people’s comments so infuriating I throw my phone down in disgust, cursing the ignorance/vapidity/callousness of the offender – but these days I can rarely stir myself to actually respond. I just don’t have the stomach for a virtual slanging match, with its inevitable decline into personal insults and the certain rejoinder “everyone has the right to an opinion”. Ugh.
    Maybe it’s just me – or maybe Apathetica Commentaria could be an epidemic of Omnisciencian proportions.

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