On Distraction

 

I'll be the first to admit that I am not the first to try and speak on the topic of distraction. It seems that everyone must know by now (at least anyone properly plugged into the 21st century technology boom) that our attention spans have become minute. I have no statistics, I've done no studies, but for me, this is 100% true.

I have found that I can no longer watch TV without playing a game on my iPad. I can no longer surf the web without Netflix on in the background. When I'm on the subway, I am most likely listening to a podcast whilst attempting to finally reach the 2048 tile on 2048. 

I have become a serial multi-tasker. 

From afar, this might not seem like such a bad thing. I'm getting multiple things done in half the time that it would take me to do them separately.

But what am I really accomplishing?

Despite my thoughts that my brain really can be split two ways (and three ways. And sometimes even four ways.) it can't. Inevitably, my mind is focused on one activity more than the other, and my recognition and recollection of the second activity is dramatically reduced.

I have watched movies a second time and remembered nothing from the first viewing because I was on Tumblr. I've got little twists and turns in TV shows that completely escaped me on the first go around because I was too fixated on scrolling through my Twitter feed. And most importantly, I don't realize what I'm eating and enjoy the experience of food when the next video on my YouTube playlist loads. 

I'm missing out.

Yes, it is fun to distract; certainly the Internet has proven that with all of its wonderful mind-numbingly excellent sites and applications. And sometimes, it's even necessary to distract, to bring our awareness from somewhere we don't want it to be, at least for a little while.

But when does it get to be too much? When can we put down the smart phone and the tablet and enjoy what's in front of us?

Even writing this I feel the itch to switch the baroque music I'm listening to, to the latest Comedy Bang Bang episode and switch Evernote into Tumblr.

But if I take a minute and just sit with what I'm experiencing, really experiencing, through all my senses, it is quite magnificent. I feel the comfortable chair beneath me, the small keys of my portable keyboard tapping smoothly against my fingers. I hear the upbeat Sonata in A Major K. 175 by Domenico Scarlatti through my earpods thanks to Songza and I can feel it motivate me and lift my spirits up. I see the wind throwing dead leaves into the air, my music becoming the soundtrack to their dance. I smell... well I don't smell much, it's actually quite odorless in the library, which I believe I can be grateful for. And all I can really taste is the remnants of toothpaste. Not as magnificent as the other senses.

As pretentious/corny/ridiculous as it all sounds, I no longer want to be a bystander, an observer of my life. I want to revel in all my experiences, both good and bad, because time doesn't slow down. Why am I selling my experiences short by dividing my attention? 

This will be an experiment in information retention and a zen attempt to be more fully in the now. I'm always so preoccupied with what's happened and what's to come that I distract myself from the current moment. 

Like I said, I'm missing out.

I don't want to anymore.