Distraction is the new religion. I honestly believe that. It comes complete with ritual, purpose, compulsion, productivity, and an entire social and economic framework entwined with everyday life. The only thing it doesn’t promise is somewhere to go after you die. Yet.
Distraction is the 21st century opiate of the masses. We distract ourselves voluntarily. We need to. It’s a huge part of how life feels too fast and too much almost all the time, but it’s the people’s drug of choice. It’s the socially acceptable way to cope with this lifestyle of permanent overload.
I know, I know, but it feels so good.
Everyone does it.
I don’t want to miss out.
We fill up all the wee snippets of our inbetweens with our phones, scrolling in absorbed distraction. We argue that it keeps us more connected, and it does, but our moments of connectedness are only a small percentage of our distractedness.
The rest is a fugue of irrelevant and instantly forgettable input.
I don’t think social media is bad or mobile phones, for that matter. They’re awesome. We live in a magic time where we carry the internet in our pockets. Instant answers. Easy access. Fascinating ideas.
The downer is that the technology is designed like a casino to keep us there, generating valuable data, attracting advertising revenue and spending money on things. Lots and lots of things. Personally, I don’t care if Facebook tracks my online purchases in order to tailor ads. This isn’t a privacy rant. I care about distractedness, because it’s affecting the richness of my experience in this incredible world.
You see, to live in distraction is more than just cumulative hours of screen time. It’s always having part of your mind carved off, devoted and ready to respond to messages and email, itching for a quick fix of info hit. No wonder everything keeps getting louder and more insistent. Food is louder (more sugar, more salt, more fat) for us to taste it. People are louder, presenting ever more ridiculously stylised bodies and lives and talking relentlessly, hoping someone out there listens. Advertising is everywhere, nagging at us like an emotional abuser to second guess ourselves and to feel like we’re not enough as we are. We voluntarily take it everywhere with us. Even to the toilet.
Some people turn off completely. They opt out of Facebook and purchase ‘dumb phones’. I’m not convinced that’s necessary, but I AM going to put them down for long stretches at a time. Hours. Then, maybe days. I’m going to live where I am, not scattered in a prism of a thousand different directions through the portal in my hand.
What’s it like to order coffee and enjoy the cafe? What ideas wait for me as I wait for the tram? What serendipity sparks if I acknowledge people around me instead of shutting them out? What strange, mad, incredible, beautiful things surround me if I look where I’m going?
It’s time to find out.
We anesthetize the truth with busyness.