Do you ever feel like you just have too much going on?

I often find myself glued to my beloved Macbook with 20+ tabs open in Chrome, my earphones plugged in listening music through Spotify and my iPhone planted next to my coffee cup flashing up every 15 minutes or so whispering ‘pick me up.’ Sometimes this way of working can be a productive session but a lot of the time I know deep down this is not an optimal way of working and getting things done.

 

So, if I know this approach isn’t working why do I continue giving in to the temptation of distractions?

Why is it so hard to switch off my phone, or close those 19 tabs that I want to read or haven’t finished reading? I know am not good at multitasking, I should know better!

Attention spans, I believe, are at an all-time low for humanity, and understandably so. We have been supplied with all of these new shiny tools – smartphones, wearables, widgets, plugins, apps, etc. – with no guide on how to use them appropriately and integrate them into our lives without taking too much of a toll on other important aspects of life. OK, so we generally know how to use these tools in their absolute and relative interoperability sense, but I feel today’s society suffers from the relentless informational overload that comes through these weapons of mass distraction – push notifications and alerts: buy now, new follower, new comment on your photo, etc, etc. I think society needs to negotiate a healthy balance so we don’t continue down this path of disruption that could negatively impact societies productivity and the social integration of people.

I remember once, I took a stroll around the city of London during the lunch period and it occurred to me that I hadn’t looked at the sky since stepping out of the office (15 minutes ago). Why? I was looking at my damn phone! I wasn’t happy with my lack of control. I was neglecting the tangible life around me and appreciation to see daylight.

But when I looked around to take in my surroundings I noticed over half the people was victims to the same kryptonite; sitting down and hunched over looking intensely into their phone screens, or walking with their heads angled at 165 degrees looking down at their phone with their two eyes while walking, and obviously watching where they are going with their third eye! The long and short of it is, this habitual behaviour to engage online rather than offline is widespread and entrenched.

I hear some people say, “attention is the new currency” these days which in a world of mobile and short attention spans sounds plausible. All the social media platforms are battling for our attention, seducing the world with beautifully designed high-def graphics and intuitive user interfaces. From the Madmen era when radio and televisions were the new channels to hook people to now, when we have these ‘smart’ devices, that are held so closely could be mistaken to be our “third arm,” to feed the messages through. We are all swimming in a smaller pond with more digital hooks.

The Apple App store now has over 1.5 million applications to choose from and download – a load of them requesting permission to push themselves onto our screens. Our beloved network providers are now providing us with a larger amount of bandwidth to help quench our thirst for distraction.

 

Would it be possible to universally instill a certain level of discipline or best practice around technology use?

The notion of an entity creating and recommending a ‘best practice guide to technology usage in the 21st century’ may sound a little far-fetched to some, but I do, personally, place some credence to such a thought. As a “generation Y’r,” I am witnessing the birth of personal devices playing an acute role in our day-to-day lives. Our increasing dependency on these devices that can provide us almost infinite access to a multitude of information sources which is liberating and empowering but at the same time this proliferation does warrant attention and additional care as they are, in some cases, being mishandled today.

It is disconcerting to witness a vast majority of the youthful ‘Z’ generation finding themselves engrossed in technology but not in a productive way, in a superficial way; the harm of these weapons of mass distraction started worrying mums (and dads) some time ago, with their expressed concerns about children’s disengagement with real life and physical social interaction which includes being present at the dinner table. children rather staying at home to build their virtual farm or alike in this virtual world – Minecraft comes to mind here. Perhaps the maternal instinct is a leading indicator to what we should be concerned about for wider humanity?

 

How can we start reshaping tech usage in our lives?

Digital detoxing
I am seeing and hearing more and more about the digital detoxing processing, which involves disconnecting from digital for a set period of time – a “tech fast.” For me, this can be a really beneficial process to help re-engage with and embrace the “real world”

Distraction monitoring plugins
There is a rise of anti-distraction applications coming to the market to support your efforts to stay focused. I haven’t tried personally (perhaps I should!), but Stay Focusd seems to be getting good reviews from people that are in search for something to help them set some personal ground rules.

 

This is clearly a topic that will be up for debate for some time to come, especially as technology innovation persists to churn out newer shinier gadgets, widgets, plugins and applications, at a rate of production which society struggles to keep up with. This thoughtless behaviour is something I will be seeking to challenge myself on.

 

Something to ponder on a little more, I think.

Yours truly,
RTP

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