Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Detoxing from rapid internet mode

Check out my recent column on The Bargain Hunter

Social Media - Weapons of Mass Distraction (by Hunter Langston)

I used to be a voracious reader. In all my thrift store gleanings I have compiled books known and obscure, stacked in a neat pile ready to be devoured. My nightstand groans with my “to-read” pile, and I have added an extra stand, slender with shelves, so I can pile more. That’s right, I have two nightstands with book stacks – doesn’t everyone? 

As of late, though, I’ve stumbled across a troubling thing. Something that if really is true will be the end of me because I won’t know the cure. The problem? I’m having a terrible time staying focused on my books. I used to be able to sit down in the evenings and read several chapters. If the book was really intense, I could read for hours during the day. Now I have problems finishing a chapter and books are becoming harder and harder to finish. I think I know what the issue is and don’t want to admit it. I believe I’ve succumbed to the social media/technology disorder. You know the one? Where you can’t go five minutes without checking your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed? I might settle in with my book, get comfy and cozy, read a few paragraphs, and then my palms start itching. I start thinking about what might be new or have been said and bam – my book is facedown and I’m scrolling. This, my friends, is what we used to yell at our kids for.

Technology has become part and parcel of our world. On our hand-held smart phones the world is at our fingertips. We can’t go anywhere without it or we feel disconnected and apart, and I can’t believe I’ve succumbed to it. I’m not really sure that there is a cure. When I think back, it’s only been 10 years since we got our first computer. The first time I got online it was like magic, even though it was dial-up and took years to get on. Cell phones, big and clunky, were purchased and through the years became more streamlined and full of more options. Now, my laptop is my portal to the writing world where I gather ideas, and also where I type up the thoughts that come to my head. It was only last August that I caved to the iPhone and finally decided I needed one. That was the last straw. I’m now connected wherever I go, even in the Walmart bathroom if need be. It’s a constant at-the-ready deal and one that, I believe, has taken away my ability to focus on something (like reading) for an extended period of time. 

I’m not sure how to cure this because we all know that technology isn’t going anywhere. It’s only becoming faster and better every second of every day. We don’t have to bow to it, this I know. It’s become the norm, though, to be available at all times. I have to say that I do miss when I was out and about and could disappear from the world in the grocery store and let my answering machine at home pick up the calls. Alas, our answering machine went out the door years ago along with the landline phones. I say good riddance, in all sincerity. Has anyone else experienced this phenomena? The inability to concentrate on the simplest things like browsing a magazine or reading a lengthy book? The fast paced world where pages fly by and tabs are opened and closed with alarming speed. I would love to know that I’m not alone. I would love to know how everyone else deals with this. I love social media/technology and know that I must learn to embrace it yet manage it. I’ve simply got to learn how to switch my Internet-fast mind off and learn to switch off the phone and computer as well. Our brains are computers that can be trained as well, because after all, I have stacks of books waiting for me. But unlike technology, they will never change – they will remain static, full of their words, and wait for me to come back to them


denice said...

I could have written this! Seriously! While I've always been a highly distractible person, I used to be able to read more at one time that I can now. Some of it, I attribute to the phenomenon you write about here, but I think some is simply caused by getting older. I have five kids, a husband, a live-in father, and a bunch of dogs who seem to need me at every turn. I think that has affected my ability to focus; now I create my own interruptions, whether it's the interwebs or a quick pause to vacuum the couch or toss in a load of laundry. I've stopped fighting it. Now, I recognize that this is simply the way I am, and I need to roll with it. I choose a book and make myself read through a section of it (because I *want* to read it, even though I'm distracted), and then I allow myself a few minutes to do something else. I cycle like this throughout the day when I'm able, and I find that I get a lot done if I go with that flow. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you are most definitely NOT alone. I'm checking my email in the WalMart bathroom, too. ;-)

mkh said...

I'm glad to know I'm not alone, Denice! It is certainly a concern, but you're right - we just roll with it!