Tech gadgets offer us a lot of positive things. Time saving and convenience stand out the most. Could you live without your mobile, your computer……………. An interesting effect is these tools are also a big distraction, causing a significant amount of interruptions throughout any given day. Here’s a list –
- The mobile phone – how many times do you walk into a coffee shop or restaurant and there’s at least one mobile on most tables? Diners will interrupt their eating to take and make calls. You never hear a comment such as “can I put you on hold for 10 mins while I enjoy this delicious cappuccino”.
- The ringing phone – what is it about a ringing phone that causes an impulse to drop everything to answer it? My brother has made an art out of refusing to be distracted by a ringing phone. Often, this stretches to being totally oblivious to the shrill. 10 minutes later he’s surprised to discover he’s had a missed call even though everyone else in the vicinity is far too aware of it.
- The text messages – do text messages need to be read and answered the moment they come in? Probably not. Self test over the next week – see how long is a comfortable delay before you read and / or reply.
- The email – I have 2 email accounts in my workplace. One is permanently open on the screen, with an icon in the tray to tell me about new messages. Yes, I interrupt my work when I see the envelop appearing. The other is web-based so it logs itself out very quickly. Consequently it doesn’t cause interruptions in my workday to the same extent.
- The facebook – social networking is a useful and interesting way to see who’s doing what, and particularly so for overseas friends I don’t see that often. However, unlike my students on Bebo, I don’t find it an interruption in my life.
- Twitter – this is the ultimate distraction. A short time back I finally gave in and started tweeting. But I’m not sold on keeping up with the minute detail of someone else’s life. It’s too much. I know there are people permanently on the tweet, and how they make time for this is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong. I see the benefits, but it’s got huge potential to be distracting and it is a significant problem in this regards for some people.
- Chatrooms – I went through a period a number of years back where having 3 chatrooms open at the same time was a regular occurrence. I learned some cognitive multi-tasking but then decided I should study for a second masters degree and the multi-chat rooms was just too distracting to concentrated study. Now, I have a much more balanced approach to chatting.
- RSS and blog/news readers – there is a sheer convenience of having one site that literally holds all that you need to know from a multitude of sites of interest. Unfortunately I can find myself hitting the refresh button far too often – has x posted his blog for the day yet, did Y make it into the news sites, did Z make a comment on the latest controversy in the financial world, etc.
The internet full stop – it’s a truly wonderful distraction. How on earth did I possibly live without it? How would I live without it if I had to? Internet addiction is on the rise, particularly in terms of people spending more time online than offline, and not being able to switch off. Is this something society should be concerned about, or is it something that’s a standard feature of modern 21st century life?