Distraction – A Social Blight

“Driving While Distracted” has become a popular catch phrase in recent times.  The cell phone zombie who walks into a fountain or out into traffic to become roadkill.  The lonely soul in a diner with a lunch companion engrossed in their cell or laptop.

And then there are divorce courts full of the lonely – abandoned by an electronically obsessed partner.

Game over.

Parents with kids in therapy trying to wean the entitled little tike off of video games. I am of the belief it cannot be done.

I will get to all of this in just a moment. 

Distractibility transcends everything I’ve just mentioned and here’s why.  I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  Distraction just comes naturally for me.  I have the attention span of a gnat and always have. Stay with me – stay with me…  When I was growing up back in the 1960s, educators could never quite define why I had such horrible grades, was daydreaming in class, kept staring out the window, was playing with my ruler, twiddling my pencil, getting up out of my desk to annoy others, and failing to pay attention in class. 

Oh look—a squirrel!!!

Distractibility makes people crazy.  When you have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), anything that distracts is the kiss of death.  You come off the rails and never return to what you were doing.  Yeah…another abandoned project.  The beauty of ADHD is creativity.  You’re always coming up with a lot of fresh ideas, however, your follow through could use a tune-up.

Easier said than done. 

You’re always starting new projects—and can never see your way to completion because you’re always moving on to something else. It has become cliché with ADD/ADHD types.  Your friends and coworkers laugh.  You have this great idea, and they chuckle when out of earshot.  Your great idea will fall flat amid distractibility.     

Distractibility has become epidemic.  Seems ADD/ADHD is affecting everything from doctors’ offices to fast food to auto repair shops.  However—the real news on distractibility is worse. Real worse.  We are endlessly distracted by electronics.  Can’t go anywhere or even function without our cell phones and laptops.  What did we do when the only option was a pay phone or snail mail?

You’re in a restaurant with a friend and they’re wrapped up in their cell phone.  “Gotta answer Joe…hang on…” “Oh look, can you believe this news story?”  “Oh wait…something just happened in New York…” 

And the ad nauseum response of, “What?” or “Huh?” 

My 13 year-old asks me, “What did you guys do when you had nothing to do?!” meaning how did we entertain ourselves without electronics? Well, we had this thing in our heads called imagination. We played games, engaged in cards, read books, walked through the woods, visited with our pets, and hooked up with friends. We knew no different because these distraction gadgets did not yet exist.

Imagine – had there been all of this hand-held technology in the 1960s we would have never made it to the Moon. NASA engineers would have been engrossed in X-Box or Play Station instead of getting to the Moon. “T-minus 15 seconds and counting, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2…hold on a minute…gotta finish this game…”  

We’re so engrossed in electronic devices that there’s no time for living.  Virtual reality…  Whatever happened to reality?  My son has one of these “Oculus” devices you strap onto your head equipped with handheld controllers that takes you into a virtual world yielding all kinds of experiences in the comfort of your family room.  You can fly high over New York or get into a virtual reality trip of anything imaginable.  Oculus calls it, “No wires. A world of experiences. Unlike anything you’ve ever seen…”

Yeah…unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I agreed to it knowing it was a terrible idea. 

We have dents in the refrigerator, items knocked off shelves, and self-inflicted injuries from smashing into furniture while engrossed in this imaginary world that doesn’t exist.  It’s all make believe—and we continue to get sucked into it.  You need approximately an acre of land when you strap the Oculus Quest onto your cranium.  How many try this head game in the front yard only to wander into the street to be hit by a real car? 

How’s that for reality?

I feel like a dinosaur in a world full of distracted people – lost in the silent vacuum of abandonment. It’s like that IHOP commercial from long ago. Some poor guy walking through the city streets yelling “Where is everybody?!!” Another lonely guy walks up, “Sale….at IHOP!” I feel like the guy in that commercial – lost and alone. I never got into video games for the same reason I never got into drugs – I was afraid I’d like them a little too much.

Distractibility via electronics has become the Zombie Apocalypse.  The world has become so addicted to electronics and virtual reality that nothing else exists including reality.  I know married couples who chat with each other via text from different rooms. 

You know you’ve done this!    

A buddy of mine was at dinner at a friend’s home.  When dinner wrapped up, he expected to sit down with her and have a nice visit before heading home.  She wandered off to the next room without a word and sat down to her laptop.  He sat there for quite a while wondering where she went.  He checked on her to find her completely engrossed in a video game.  He quietly slipped out the door and went home.  She was unaware he even left nor did she ever mention it.

For such a connected society, we’ve become decidedly disconnected.

What to do about this social phenomenon?  Not much.  We will have to learn miserably much as we have everything else.  We will have to suffer the agony of cold turkey withdrawal when there’s a massive electrical grid failure that shuts down the power for weeks or even months to where people are forced to actually talk with each other.  They will have to sit down face-to-face and conduct a conversation or even play a game of cards or Chess. Or – heaven forbid – engage in their imaginations.

In case you’re interested in chatting, do share your Zombie Apocalypse experiences with me and I will weave them into a future Boomer Journey.

Huh?        

6 thoughts on “Distraction – A Social Blight”

  1. Good grouch. [Grouch as a verb/noun here. Grouch is what they call us, those who cannot understand our dissatisfaction with the quo of status.] I personally suffer from ODS [Old Dewd Somnambulism] which makes me forget what I was doing when I walk from one room to another looking for, my, um, what was it I was after? Makes me wonder often if I’m that boring that folk have to take up hobbies while I’m talking. Yes, it’s societal. But I see signs people, most encouragingly, young people, are disconnecting from induction-charged wearable electronics. Nothing to compare to driving umpty hundred miles to visit friends and family then find yourself, after hugs, coffee, a bit of late lunch, and recounting the last month’s trials and trribulations, facing a room full of people all left-and-right swiping their cellphones. Yeah. Maybe I am that boring.

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      1. Only if they’re legal in your state. However, I have discovered that while that might help, say, I am more congenial, I will still stand in front of the linen closet with cheese in my hand. Age promotes a sort of stream of consciousness reality that even the best medical minds, other than yours, can find an acronym for!

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  2. I have friend who callas all the electronic devices ASDs. Anti Social Devices and collects them from grandkids when they come over en masse for a holiday. I always had the daydreams but made good grades after they figured out if I sat in the back I couldn’t see the blackboard and fell off into amusing myself with small toys sneaked from home. Once I could pay attention, I paid enough to keep the oldies off my back. Your point about kids is well taken. they have no sense of history, cultural or political. I think we had an advantage in being woven into the fabric of our peers. Sure, you could talk nothing on the phone for an hour to a girl but we had to talk, interact.

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