Addicted to Distraction

May 27, 2008

Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written an insightful piece on how we are living in the age of distraction.

“The rise of mass media and the culture of entertainment shaped the minds of generations now at mid-life and older. Today’s generation of college and university students faces a far greater array of attention demands — most of them now cellular and digital. Many teenagers and college students seem to experience genuine anxiety when they miss a few minutes of digital activity. (In fairness, their Treo and Blackberry toting parents are often almost as distracted and inattentive.)

Ask any educator and you will hear the horror stories. College professors look out at the tops of heads as students are bent over keyboards. On some campuses, faculty members are in revolt over students surfing the Web and maintaining their Facebook pages during lectures. The learning experience is transformed even if the students are taking notes on their laptops. Eye contact between the teacher and the students is often almost totally lost.”

It is no secret that information and technology is exploding at an exponential level. What I mean is instead of communication progressing in linear form such as 2…4…6…8, it is instead multiplying exponentially: 2…4…8…16…32. For example, when I entered college in the fall of 1997 I toted my huge desktop computer into my dorm room. It was my estimation that about half of those hallmates of mine in Snowden dorm (which is now no more…) actually had a computer in their room. Twelve years later, those freshmen entering college will not only all have their own computer, but they will also most likely have laptops.

Furthermore, during my freshman year at Carolina I was a part of the first class to have a T1 landline internet connection in their dorm rooms. Fast forward 12 years and students can tote their laptops into a classroom and connect to a wi-fi signal and completely waste their time in class (man, what I would have given for that! – especially in my ENGL 285 class, “The Literature of American Feminism”)

Additionally, my freshman year in school introduced me to AIM – better known as instant messenger. The fact that I could talk to someone via the computer just by typing and pressing ‘enter’ amazed me. Now, AIM is on the way out as Facebook is taking over both instant messaging as well as email. Speaking of email, don’t make me tell you about my freshman email account which featured a black screen with green letter interface….talk about ancient.

The point in all this rambling is as our communication continues to explode exponentially, more and more of our society becomes addicted and reliant on communication and technology. Can you imagine what it would be like to go one week:

a) checking your personal email once a day(not business, since that is part of your job and is thus a necessity)

b) watching less than two hours of television a day (this includes the TV being left on as background noise)

c) Using the internet under one hour a day

d) Not checking your Facebook account for one week

e) Not sending a text message on your cell smartphone for one week

f) Not getting on the web via your cell or smartphone for one week

Here is my challenge for myself and for you: See if you can go one week doing the preceding activities and the time that you have instead spend it talking to a real live person, whether it be at work or at home. Can you imagine how doing just those things could effect your personal and spiritual life with your loved ones? Better yet, try it for one day. I’d love to hear how it changed your day.


2 Responses to “Addicted to Distraction”

  1. ouch. totally convicted.

  2. Ashley,

    It’s amazing how much we rely, depend on, and need technology that is less than 10 years old…

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