There’s a new syndrome lurking out there: Shiny Object Syndrome, or, appropriately enough, SOS. SOS manifests as a continual state of distraction, brought on by the belief that there is always something new worth pursuing. To make things worse, the onset of SOS usually comes at the expense of something already planned or underway. Sound familiar?
Crows and magpies apparently suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome. So do some people I know. One moment these good people are zigging, and then all of a sudden, they’re zagging, distracted by some bright, new shiny object. They just can’t help themselves. SOS is even worse among people who are susceptible to another acronym: FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. SOS hits the FOMO population hard because that next shiny object in the road is sure to cloud their judgement and cause them to lose focus lest they miss the next big opportunity. Trust me on this
There’s another troublesome aspect of Shiny Object Syndrome: it often causes people to become fixated on something small and shiny, and, in the process, to lose sight of the bigger picture. Sufferers pounce on a new trend or idea and suddenly they’re off on another tangent. Nothing can stop them, at least until they encounter the next shiny object in their path. And on and on we go…
And therein lies the rub: there is always a next shiny object. My favorite poet, Robert Frost, knew this all-too-well. Consider his short masterpiece, “Nothing Gold Can Stay:”
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
It’s a sad truth: tarnish is inevitable, and moreover, something new, a brighter and shinier object, is sure come along to captivate us. Let’s be honest: it’s harder and harder to stay on track in a world that spins as fast as this one. Sigh.
I tend to be a one-thing-at-a-time kind of guy. Some people may find that boring, but I know no other way of living. I’m by nature suspicious of shiny objects, maybe, because like Mr. Frost, I’ve learned that nothing gold can stay. I guess I’d never make it in a murder of crows.
Is there a cure for SOS? If there were, I’d corner the market. However, short of a cure, there may be an alternative way of thinking about those meddlesome shiny objects. For example, maybe instead of chasing after them, we could stop and consider refocusing our attention on the here and now, and remember why we picked up our current shiny object in the first place. OK; so maybe our current object is a bit tarnished, but that doesn’t mean we should automatically discard it for something shinier. Maybe a little polish and recommitment is all it needs.
All this isn’t to say that I am anti-change. Change is fine as long as it’s appropriate change. I’m just not convinced that all shiny objects are worth their apparent weight in gold. So before you decide to pick up the next one you see, stop and consider the one you’re already holding in your hand. Maybe you already found your shiny object.
Don’t be a crow.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel “This Salted Soil,” a new children’s book, “The Ballad of Poochie McVay,” and two collections of essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”), are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.