It’s an Expectation
Let’s say you woke up one day and decided you no longer wanted to participate in the Age of Distraction in some way … could you just drop out?
Well, you could, but you’d be up against an entire culture that expects you to participate.
I removed all television from my home for 3 years. The distraction and noise became too much, not to mention the disconnection from life my kids were experiencing – they were in a TV coma too often.
I eliminated TV to reconnect with my family, not to make a social statement. Some applauded me for having the courage to give up TV — indicating this was a huge step that took bravery, took an ability to break from a major societal norm. The ramification was never fully understood – In conversation, I would mention my lack of television, and then the other members of the chat would ask me if I had seen “such and such” show on TV. “How could I live without TV?” I was asked, daily.
My friend Leo ditched email so that he could focus less on answering emails and more on what he loves doing: creating.
That seemed fairly straightforward to me, but it turns out it drew quite a strong reaction in a lot of people. He was also told that he was brave. Some people were insulted or indignant, either feeling like he was challenging their way of doing things, or that he was some kind of “diva” for not wanting to be available through email.
Interesting: the simple act of giving up television or email was either hugely courageous or arrogant, because we weren’t living up to the expectations of society that I would watch Dancing With The Stars or that he’d be available via email and at least make the attempt to reply.
How high these expectations are depends on your job, who you are, where you work, and the standards that have evolved in the group you work with. But some people are expected to be available all the time, carrying a Blackberry or other device with them, and to respond almost immediately — or they’re out of touch, or not good businesspeople.
Others are expected to be available for instant messaging or Skype chats, or be on social forums or social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. Others need to follow the news of their industry closely, and constantly read updates of news sites.
Being connected all the time, 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, or a willingness to be an arrogant diva.
How did this happen? When did we opt-in to be a part of this? There was never a time when we agreed to these expectations, but they’ve evolved rapidly over the last decade or so, and now it’s hard to get out.
I’m not saying we should get out. I’m saying we need to rethink things, to change expectations so that the system suits us, not the other way around.
A Simple Question
Here’s a little exercise that might prove useful: as you read this note, how many times were you distracted or tempted to switch to another task?
How many times did you think of something you wanted to do, or check your email or other favorite distractions? How many times did you want to switch, but resisted? How many different things made a noise or visual distraction while you were reading? How many people tried to get your attention?
In an ideal world, the answers to all those questions would be “zero” — you’d be able to read with no distractions, and completely focus on your task. Most of us, however, have distractions coming from all sides, and the answers to this little exercise will probably prove illuminating.
Oh look…a pretty butterfly!
Chasing the butterflies,
Mindy ~ The Goddess of Healing