Thoughts On Distractedness

February 10th, 2010

I believe we should be conscious that every statement and most sentences we utter has the phrase 'I believe' invisibly appended to the front. With that, I'll continue. Edit: I  a brilliant, comical example of this that appeared like a day after I posted this.

I believe we live in a world full of distractions. I had the privilege of sitting at the back row in my lecture today and every laptop in the lecture theatre visited Facebook at least once. Instead of reading (for leisure, in the pursuit of knowledge, both) I watched a film after dinner. Now that the film has ended it would be the perfect time to sit down and read, I've been trying to get through the mock-epic(?) novel Independent People by Haldór Laxness for months now and I'm barely half way through. I enjoy books but I'm a poor reader. Instead I spend hours perusing reddit and Facebook, but why?

I suppose the main reason is convenience, it's so much easier to sit in front of a screen, very much passively, slowly taking in whatever is being fed to me by the Top News stream or Recent Activity feed. Because these do not move at my own pace perhaps that is why it spurs me on? And it's got me thinking, would a device like the Amazon Kindle or iPad change this? It adds the convenience factor and both devices promise to offer easy readability (although I find the arc90 readability bookmarklet does a marvellous job on making things on the web easier to read).

What is the point of living in a distracted society? It seems to make sense from a work ethic, keep working and make money; keep consuming and keep buying. I believe we've tried this for a while and it's failed. They say in (post)modern times we live in a (post)consumerist society, (the post I suppose would mean that we're well aware of this?) but surely we always have? Consumerism has had such a large effect on me I can't really imagine any other way. Anyway, this is about distractions but this in itself is a good point. How are we meant to think of such things when we've got friends, happiness and such so nearby?

I am sure I am oversimplifying it, all the great thinkers had distractions; some shut these distractions out better than others. It just seems to be amplified and quicker now with the www. I heard a really great quote in episode 1 of the BBC documentary 'The Virtual Revolution' currently on iPlayer,  Lee Seigel says, "Like all technology, the internet is not a cure for human nature, it's an amplification of human nature, both the good and the bad." The distractions become amplified online.

What are your views? Am I isolated in my thinking, do I make sense? Do you agree or disagree? It would be nice to know.

This post is a black sheep and hasn't been categorised. There are 4 comments.


Sally Stone said:
I think that if you are open to being distracted you will be distracted. The www just is super available and instant in your house so it is very obvious. I think that many people don't have as much discipline as people did in the 'old days'. If you don't have things that you HAVE to do on a particular day/time then turn on the web and I suppose one thing very easily leads to another whereas when I was your age I would get up and make a coffee and turn TV on, if TV wasn't what I wanted to watch (3/4/5 channels!) then I might consider that the job in hand (that I was distracted from) might be worth getting on with after all, so yes, think that means I agree with you!!
Julia said:
Ultimate example: People have been writing books and doing work for a longlong time and yet Stephen Fry had to force himself to eliminate online distractions in order to finish his autobiography or whatever he's writing. Before the www. he wouldn't have had to force himself to do it! There we go. My tuppence. Think you're right though - the Virtual Revolution programme was good. Convenience is key nowadays.
Tim said:
And if Mr. Fry himself had to, what chance have the rest of us got? I guess we've always been a visually-orientated species so text really has to try hard. What I don't really understand though is why, if this really is the case, we love books so much? Although books aren't the only thing we're being distracted from (the natural world springs to mind). I don't know, it's a very large subject.
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