• Patrick McAndrew

Fighting the Digital Distractions

What creates that need, that urge, to always check our phones?  Nowadays, there sure are a lot of things to check on our phones, even if the phone doesn’t prompt us with a ping or a light.  There is also the phantom vibration, when we think our phone is going off, but it really isn’t.

As a society, we feel tethered to our devices.  We always want to be “in the know”, checking out the latest and greatest on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and all of the other apps and platforms that are at our fingertips.  It’s an interesting paradox; we want to know what’s going on in the world, so we check our phones instead of observing the world around us.

I am currently reading Nancy Colier’s book, The Power Of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World.  While her book is chock-full of great quotes and tidbits of information, she has one quote that sticks out to me.  Colier states:

“The system has flipped: people are now the distraction, and our online world is the main stage.”

Have we succumbed so much to our online distractions that they are the new norm?  I am led to believe so.  It certainly seems like the phone gets the priority over the person most of the time.  I suppose this makes sense, since our phones are with us morning, noon, and night.  It’s very often I see a friend take out a phone in front of me and rare, only every once in a blue moon, that a friend will put the phone away when spending time with me.  If this isn’t a clear indicator of priorities, I don’t know what is!

Perhaps I’m coming off a little too touchy-feely.  This is not so much an unbearable annoyance as it is an observation.  We all have our phones out so if I threw a hissy fit every time someone checked their phone, well, I wouldn’t have many friends.  With that said, I do clock these moments.  Studies have shown that, once distracted, it takes about 20 minutes to get focused on a task again.  This can be work that we are hammering out or an in-depth conversation.  “I say, 20 minutes?!”  Within those 20 minutes, we start another trying-to-focus cycle because, on average, we distract ourselves yet again before those 20 minutes are up.  Within an hour, the average person checks their phone 6- 7 times.  As our old friend Kevin McCallister would say, “YIKES!”

So how do we fight this seemingly, never-ending distraction?  We must develop new habits.  We must be hard on ourselves.  We need to work out and go to the gym in order to exercise our bodies.  Likewise, we need to monitor our technology use to heal our minds.  Excessive technology use is just like junk food for the mind.  Sure, a piece of candy here and a cookie there is yummy and delicious, but if we eat too much candy and too many cookies we will be exploding out of our pants and having health problems out the wazoo!  The same can be said when we saturate our minds with a useless newsfeed on Facebook or constantly comparing ourselves to Instagram models.

We must develop regulation and moderation when it comes to our technology use.  These must be habits that we develop slowly and effectively over time, just like exercising and eating healthy.  The repressions could be detrimental otherwise.  If we don’t start to monitor the time spent online, looking down at our devices, we will look up years from now and find out that we were distracted our whole lives.

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