Ignorance by Distraction
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 2019
Deep learning of important aspects of our lives requires undistracted attention. The world is increasingly full of bids for our attentional resources. We must intentionally create space for the deeper issues.
Swirling chaos constantly beckons for attention. We live in a whirlwind. The world calling with beeps and buzzes from our pockets. Custom designed collections of emotional disruptions meticulously organized from mass data to optimally grab your attention luring you away from the morass of nonsense. We click on links that ignite our fears and anger. The information overload has made us stupid, ineffective, and distracted. The world conspires, intruding on our space, and luring us into a tangled web of madness. We can’t hold our attention to meaningful stimuli for more than short bursts. We must stop the madness, regain control and focus on expanding sources promising to expand knowledge and wisdom. We must call upon brain executive functions to manage our curiosity, directing energy towards something better.
Distraction has become a universal attention disorder, afflicting the entire technological savvy world. We shudder with weakness failing to give attention to the critical, even where our very survivability is at stake. When the smart-demon beeps, calling our attention from the practical (driving) and towards a nonsensical update, or a poorly worded tweet—we have to look. We’re drawn into the silly afraid of missing out (FOMO). “What if,” we ponder, “it is something important.” We fail to resist, peek at the message, and then feel impelled to respond. “What if,” we ponder, “they think I don’t like them because I don’t immediately respond.”
"Distraction has become a universal attention disorder, afflicting the entire technological savvy world."
The random beeps, buzzes, and rings interrupt more than our freeway driving; they intrude on thought, relaxation and learning. We struggle to pay attention to anything. We willingly sell our souls to the cheapest bidder. We follow stupid links that promise shack or surprise. “You wouldn’t believe what she looks like now!” Curiosity wins, and we click, drawing attention away from more edifying searches. We want news that shocks our conscious. The more outlandish the better; but make it quick, we don’t want to think.
Paul Dolan writes in his book Happiness by Design that these constant interruptions actually impact our happiness. The constant demand on attention and the energy drain from re-focusing rob valuable resources from the limited reservoirs, seriously impacting attention given to activities and learning that could positively shape our lives (2015).
We must stop this foolishness. We must stop chasing the candidate with the most sparkles, the web pages with the most antidotal advice, the loudest beep, and the cheapest thrill. Our inability to seek deeper knowledge, give attention to weightier matters, or pass on superficial communications for more sustainable learning greatly limits our ability to expand. Our knowledge is bought with tin foil sparkles instead of polished gold.
We must intentionally combat distraction. Dolan states, “It will be much easier to design your way out of distraction by preventing distractions from getting to you in the first place, than to use your willpower to counter them when they occur.” (2015, location 2890) This is wise advice. Fighting urges to resist the beeps is more energy demanding than turning off notifications.
“Make a commitment to spend a little more time each day talking to people you like. And look to spending a little less time each day glued to your computer or phone. Distractions drain you and leave you feeling tired and less happy, so stay focused on one thing at a time—and stop continually checking those darn e-mails and Facebook updates.” Paul Dolan (2015, location 2913).
Cal Newport wrote that work performed in distraction-free environments “push your cognitive capabilities to their limit,” (2016, location 58). We need to quit allowing mass data determine what we think. The last several years indicate mass data is more interested in pulling thoughts away from the deep to wading in the shallow mind-numbing stupidity of worthless intrigue or emotion stimulating non-existent conspiracies.
The research is strong. Technology, with all its wonderful benefits, interferes with learning and production (Chen, Nath, & Insley, 2014).
Wisdom is bought for the price of deeper thought engaged in through willing to pass on the bright nothingness. We need to commit to undistracted learning of topic with more substance. Are we willing to devote the necessary effort to the more complicated matters of living? Is the lure of thoughtless intrigues too much to pass by? Politicians and advertising firms believe we are dumb. They focus on tools of simplicity to capture our attention. We must refuse this spoiled bait and quit blindly submitting to the nonsensical propaganda. We must stop living up to the low expectations of large propaganda machines and demand more. We must demand respect, standing up to the fools, “treat me like I’m stupid and you won’t get my vote, and you won’t get my money.”
Put down the smart phone and give attention to the issues, learn something more.
Chen, L., Nath, R., & Insley, R. (2014). Determinants of Digital Distraction: A Cross-Cultural Investigation of Users in Africa, China and the U.S. Journal of International Technology and Information Management, 23(3-4), 145. Retrieved from Questia.
Dolan, P. (2015). Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think. Plume; Reprint edition
Newport, Cal (2016). Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition