The Age of Distraction

We live in curious times. It’s called the Age of Information, but in another light it can be called the Age of Distraction.

Ringing phones are one thing, but email notifications, Twitter messages, an array of browser tabs open, mobile devices that are always on and always beeping are quite another. More and more, we are connected, we are up to our necks in the stream of informatio and we are in the crossfire of the battle for our attention.

When we’re working, we have distractions coming from every direction. The computer, with email notifications, the browser, which contains an endless amount of reading material that can be a black hole into which we never escape, several programs opened at once, each of them with tasks to complete. Several people would like to chat, dividing our attention even further.

With so much competing for our attention, and so little time to focus on real work, it’s a wonder we get anything done at all. And then we leave work, but the attack on our attention doesn’t end.

This is unprecedented, and it’s alarming. We’ve come into this Age without being aware that it was happening, or realizing its consequences. It’s an Addiction.

Being connected, getting information all the time, having constant distractions … it has all become a part of our lives, and we need to consider the consequences of this new lifestyle. We don’t have new strategies for dealing with being connected most of the time, we don’t have new cultural norms, nor have we figured out if this is the best way to live life. We’ve been plunged into it, before we could develop a system for handling it.

Being part of this constant stream of distraction, is an expectation that society now has of us. And going against that expectation is immensely difficult for many people — it requires courage and willingness.

Summing-up: Our life is frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify. We need to rethink things, to change expectations so that the system suits us, not the other way around.

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