Virtually Divided

brain-piechartIt’s difficult to remember a time when the only thing that could distract you from work or dinner or your favorite TV show was the phone. And I mean the kind that plugged into the wall and only made one sound. Ever. It didn’t play the theme from Django, or the latest from Kanye, Beyonce or LMFAO. It just rang. And the only way to determine who was calling was to pick it up.

Getting things done is much more complicated now that in addition to your antiquated landline phone, your mobile phone with its endless news alerts, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter notifications, email alerts, software updates and game requests acts as a HUGE distraction. Add that to your desktop computer (if you are chained to one like I am) with its email alerts, IMs, meeting requests, software updates, etc., etc. and you may start to feel the urge to reach for the Xanax. Or a hammer.

It’s cool that we are able to do SO many things at once now. It really is. I can today—sitting in the Eastern Standard Time Zone—work simultaneously on a project with someone on the Pacific coast. I can grab the laptop to attend a meeting or escape to anywhere where there is wireless internet and access network files from the office.

But with all of the good that it brings, I can’t help but wonder: What harm is it doing? Are our brains going in so many different directions that no ONE thing gets the full attention that it deserves? Are we multitasking so often that we are going to forget how to sit still for as long as it takes to see ONE thing through to completion? Or is everything destined to be divided and done in pixel parts from here to eternity? Because obviously the virtual world is not only here to stay… but to go… with US anywhere we wish to take it.

I don’t know about you, but my personal time has become severely fractured too. I no longer just watch TV or eat dinner or have a conversation or look at Facebook or write. In a typical evening I might do all of the above at once. If I have a favorite show, I might push everything else to the side… laundry, dishes, conversation… to block off that 30 minutes or an hour to “relax and focus” on the entertaining dialog between some beloved characters, only to discover that I can’t keep my hands off my iPhone.

I used to only pick it up at commercials to play a game, return an email or troll Facebook for juicy gossip. But I’ve noticed that increasingly so, I am fiddling with it during the very show that I once tried so religiously to protect. I cannot stop multitasking. Last night I must have gotten OUT of bed six times (I am not kidding) to do something just because it “occurred to me” to do so. Well, that, and I feared I might forget. That is a real fear now. That I’ll forget.

Gee, I wonder why the risk of forgetfulness is so much higher now. We all like to joke around and attribute it to aging… but I myself, think the more likely culprit is a divided mind. After sliding back INTO bed for the sixth time, I finally told myself to JUST STOP. Crawl under the covers and STAY there. Do not pick up the phone. Do not surf the channels. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just freaking SLEEP! OK!?! That is at least ONE time when I am doing only ONE thing at a time.

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11 thoughts on “Virtually Divided

  1. I feel your pain! I’m the exact same way. I have an obsessive need to multitask at all times, and sometime it seriously drives me crazy, but when I’m just relaxing, I feel like I’m being lazy or that there’s so much more I could be getting done. It has its pros and cons, for sure.

  2. I DO feel sorry for this generation’s need for the internet…and I DO mean NEED. Back in the day, we picked up the phone and that was even a slower process. You know, look up the number, dial, wait… you get the idea. Scripture talks about “be still and know that I am God”. “Enter your closet and shut the door and talk to God.” I think this generation needs that more than any other. Schedule some “me” time. Or I should say “God and I” time. It will help to quiet your soul. Love you.

  3. Ha! – Great Post! I do not allow technology in the bedroom – only alarm clocks and Mr. Craves work cell if he is on call. I want to sleep like the you know what for 7 to 9 hours. I am learning to just let go and just focus on the task at hand lately. It is a freeing experience once you get the hang of it. Happy Thursday:)

  4. Donald Miller says:

    Reblogged this on Donald Miller's Notebook and commented:
    This is an essay that Joanna just happened to write at just the perfect time for me. As I’m beginning this new weblog, I remember just how nearly impossibly difficult it is to gain and keep people’s attention and interest. Or so it seems.
    Whether it’s a massive modern day attention deficit disorder that’s going around or simply an unwillingness of people to turn off the damn phone, I can’t tell you. But something in Denmark doesn’t smell like Swiss cheese, and I think Joanna is onto the right idea.

  5. Donald Miller says:

    I remember reading a book a long time ago called “Life with Father.” The guy’s dad impressed me because he refused to have a telephone placed in his home. He saw it as an invasion of the family’s privacy. I go out of my way not to get. . . be right back. . . distrascted by stuff other than what I’m doing.

    I really do.

  6. Not sure what brought me here today, but I am reminded that those things that are “good”, are always the enemy of those things that are “best”. It is never easy to make those choices, but the rewards can be great. and I would also like to say “hi” to an old friend, DM. I had no idea I would cross paths with him here. Great article! It may well be the challenge of our day.

    • I’m so glad you did stop by! Your points are excellent and I’m glad you got to say hello to Donald again. I’m sorry you caught me at a bad time in keepint up with this blog and the comments though. If you read the recent entry called: “The Deep End” you will see why I’ve been so distracted of late. I hope you are well!

  7. This is one reason why I don’t have a cell phone. Internet distractions are bad enough when I’m trying to write. I don’t want to be distracted in the rest of my life, too.

    Very thoughtful piece.

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