We all know a person who complains they’re “too busy”. But then spends every spare moment checking their phone.
To be fair, in the always-connected age we live in, it’s difficult not to get distracted – not only by our smartphones but by that fear of missing out on something that’s happening right now.
The problem is, it’s all pointless stuff isn’t it?
Yes, it’s a great that Dave liked that Facebook pic, Tesco sent you that email and Sharon tagged you in that cat video on Twitter.
And what about John (that guy you worked with 10 years ago, remember?) – he’s got a new job and LinkedIn wants you to congratulate him. Right now.
I’m guilty of it myself. As soon as I have a spare moment, I’m “checking” my phone.
Then before I know it, I’ve spent 15 minutes scrolling through status updates and refreshing my email.
The worst thing about it all is that these apps and services are like drug pushers, constantly encouraging us to keep-up-to-date with these pointless updates via email alerts and phone notifications.
Take Instagram for example. I don’t need to know straight away if someone has liked one of my pics or followed me. Yet it’s always pushing me to turn on notifications.
The drug of distraction
Even the good old BBC is guilty of pushing the drug of distraction via its app. For instance, I once worked in an office where every now and again I’d hear a muffled BBC News jingle, perhaps from a bag or pocket. After a while I realised the jingle was a “breaking news” phone notification coming from someone’s mobile.
Lady Gaga cancelling a tour was deemed important enough for a breaking news slot recently. Do we need to know about “news” like this as soon as it happens?
Actually, most news is pointless isn’t it?
Sure, it’s a little entertaining if you’ve got nothing else to do. Really though, the odd piece of news you can use gets buried in with all the other stuff you don’t have any control over. Mostly, it serves to wind us up.
Yet, we’re addicted to it. Or addicted to the distraction it provides.
Take the BBC’s “News Daily” service, which you can get delivered to your inbox or – get this – sent every day as a Facebook Message so it shows up as a notification on your phone.
Similarly, there’s the Guardian’s “morning briefing”, which you can get delivered by email every morning.
Sure, an unread email in your inbox might make us feel in demand for a millisecond. But do we need this stuff taking up our time right now? (Ironically, one of the stories in the 8 February briefing was about a women trying to clear her inbox – fat chance with these emails coming in every morning.)
And no, I don’t buy that “need to be informed” excuse when it comes to news. When I need the information, I can go and find it.
Until then, it’s more pointless info to lump in the same compartment of my brain as the social media status updates that I don’t need to know about.
Enough is enough
Anyway, I’ve now had enough – I’ve decided to stop keeping up-to-date with distraction, especially since I have a baby on the way – I don’t want to be one of those parents who has their head buried in their smartphone when they’re spending time with their kids.
However, giving up on pointless distraction is hard. So I’ve taken these (possibly drastic) measures to try to cut out the distraction pushers:
- Eliminated all TV and radio news (although I still catch the bulletins on music-based radio stations if I have them on in the background)
- Unsubscribed from all non-essential emails (or marked them as junk mail – some organisations make it extra hard to unsubscribe
- Removed social media apps from my phone and logged out of social media websites on my phone (I still allow myself to use social media on a computer, which involves more effort)
- Turned off all phone notifications except for calls, text messages and reminders
So far, so good – I’m checking my phone much less, paying more attention to what I’m doing and living more “in the moment”.
And – importantly – I feel like I have more time to do the things that really matter.
I just hope I can keep it up.
Do you stay-up-to-date with distraction? Would you like to spend less time doing low-value tasks like spending time on social media or watching the news?