We WANT to be distracted

I went to two musicals put on by local high schools over the weekend. Both were great - it's a whole new level of performance compared to when I was in school - and both featured students pleading with the crowd to either turn off phones or at the very least put them in airplane mode so they would not mess with the wireless microphones being used.

Since I have been trying to minimize distractions in my life and use the "smart" part of my phone less and less, I don't have a problem with not using my phone during performances but a lot of people around me at both performances seemed to need to scratch the itch of fomo repeatedly. Maybe we just get bored without multiple apps fighting for our attention. Maybe it makes us feel important and feeling important is a drug we can no longer do without.

I observed lots of people "sneaking" peaks at their phones and you are not really sneaking when you glance at your bright screen in a dark theater and multiply that by hundreds of people and I can't imagine what that looks like from the stage if you look out into the audience. There must be little flashes of light all over the place and most of them are coming from people's laps.

What really surprised me is that most of these folks were my age or older! Everyone seems to be obsessed with staying connected regardless of age.

I wonder if we are just no longer capable of disconnecting even for a couple of hours. How did we live when we had to concentrate on just the performance in front of us or the class we might be taking or the job we were trying to do?

Scatterbrain is going to be classified as a disease soon and probably accounts for multiple mistakes and even accidents at workplaces across the world. Who knows how many people have been maimed due to Notification Distraction!

I guess I was lucky to have gone all the way through school with no cell phones. I was able to concentrate in college without beeps and boops and buzzes and when I couldn't concentrate I guess I was just bored and being bored is rest for the brain! Now our brains get no rest at all!

I will be the first to admit that I also have more progress to make on this. When I get a work email notification here in the home office, I hear the sound from my laptop, the sound from my iPad (I keep my work email there also in case for the rare instance when I need to fix something at night when I don't want to have to open my laptop), the sound and vibration from my phone and the vibration from my "smart" watch!

Multiply that by Twitter notifications and Slack and other email accounts and iMessage and my devices are getting a workout and so is my head. If I turn off notifications, I might miss someone that DM's me only on Twitter or that messages me only on Slack so I have to leave those on.

I have gotten rid of or turned off notifications for most of my other apps. For example, I have removed Facebook from my phone and I no longer stay logged in to Facebook Messenger. It's just too much to be available multiple ways. If I do keep notifications on for an app, such as Instagram, I have the notification sounds off but even that is not enough of a distraction reduction since my phone sits right here when I work and the flash of a notification on the screen is right in my line of vision.


What can be done? I DON'T KNOW!

But I'm working on it. I love my quiet time. I need my quiet time. My brain needs rest. I don't need to feel needed because I am getting beeps and boops and buzzes.

The one thing I can't tell you is that life without the distractions was better. Let's go back to my junior year in college. 1993. Did the lack of tech make me any smarter, clear thinking or able to do more with my brain power? I don't think so. I just found other ways to waste my time and distract myself. I would go to the mall and the library or dive into various dumb hobbies rather than study for Group Piano or other classes I didn't like. Now I can just sit in my chair and have all the time wasters and work avoiders right at my fingertips.

So, the tools of distraction are different now but I don't think life is necessarily better or worse. The basic problem of WANTING to be distracted hasn't changed at all.