I laughed along with the rest of the audience when I heard on the NPR news quiz show, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, that when people in a research study were put into an empty room and given the choice to think, ponder or daydream for 15 minutes OR to self-administer an electric shock, almost half of the subjects chose to press the button for a shock rather than sitting idly. One man pressed the button and shocked himself 190 times!
Actually this is no laughing matter. We’ve become a society where most people do not take the time EVER to pause and reflect on their lives. The normal reaction to alone time now is pull out a digital device for distraction. My 11-year-old son can’t sit for a moment without being entertained somehow. I’m constantly telling him that when I grew not only did I walk uphill through the snow to the school bus (I really did, actually), but we drove across country and took other road trips without any digital media. We looked out the window or came up with games. We were bored. Or we sat alone with our thoughts.
I will admit that with a fulltime job and two demanding kids, I now rarely have the luxury of a moment of boredom and I am equally guilty of never stopping to reflect. But Reboot, the nonprofit that I work for as a communications and program manager, has created a digital reflection project called 10Q that acknowledges that many people now feel most comfortable expressing their feelings and thoughts online.
The project is an ambitious online effort to reverse the trend of living only for the moment from status update to status update, from tweet to tweet, which has taken over the notion of long-term reflection.
10Q sends the more than 20,000 people who have signed up a question a day through email for 10 days, offering a modern way for people to reflect about their lives. Individuals’ answers are sent into a digital vault at the end of the process and a year later the answers are returned and the whole experience begins again. The idea is for participants to make an annual tradition out of answering the questions, building a personal archive for future years. The questions are focused on life, goals, plans for the future, relationships, our place in the world and more.
"In an era when what you posted on Facebook and Twitter yesterday has already disappeared into the ether, there's something very beautiful about getting an opportunity to visit with your last year's self year after year after year,” said playwright Nicola Behrman, one of the creators of 10Q. “It's a way to look from a very different perspective at where you've been, where you are and ultimately where you're going."
Although the questions from 10Q (www.doyou10Q.com) are sent annually during the traditional period of reflection of the Jewish High Holidays, the 10Q questions are not religious and the project has attracted people of all backgrounds and denominations, including Catholics, Episcopalians and Buddhists.
The project was founded in 2008 by Reboot, a Jewish cultural organization that seeks to reinvent and re-imagine Jewish rituals and traditions, along with writer Ben Greenman, Behrman, and Reboot Associate Director Amelia Klein. In past years, it has attracted luminaries such as actor Jane Lynch, the governor of New York, the president of New York University, writer Amy Sohn. The daily questions from 10Q have also been shown on the jumbo screens in Times Square and in Las Vegas in past years.
Sign up at www.doyou10Q.com to start getting questions Sept. 24, 2014.