The weirdest thing happened last night. I sat in the living room in front of the television and watched the Olympics and then three episodes of a tv show without my phone or my tablet or even my Kindle nearby. There was nothing distracting me from watching television aside from the occasional dog disruption or need to get and then consume various snacks.
It was briefly like the 80's and 90's all over again.
Sometimes I forget what life was like without the power to retrieve of all of the world's information at any moment and I'm really bad about watching something on television and having that something trigger the need for me to grab my all-knowing device in order to confirm some bit of trivia (Where have I seen this actor before? Was he ever on The Love Boat?) or add something to my shopping list (A commercial for Mercedes! That reminds me. I need to buy more Charmin!) and then, once the device is in my hand, I get sucked down the Internet sinkhole and stay distracted for the rest of the night, one foot in this world and one foot in cyberspace.
I was thinking about this a bit ago as I was walking through the house with my iPhone in my hand and I heard a boop from one of my devices so I go to the device and instantly forgot what I was walking through the house for. One tiny distraction was all it took for me to no longer be completely present.
I know we all do this. I am in no way unique but my age does give me the ability to remember a time without the distraction of the internet, a time in which we focused on just the task at hand, just the show we were watching and just the person we were talking to. I don't remember ever being bored and I have to assume I was an awful lot less scatterbrained.
The worst part of my experience last night was how the desire to go get my iPad kept popping into my mind, the curiosity about what I might be missing serving as it's own distraction. I don't want to call it FOMO but I do think I always wonder if I am accidentally ignoring a seriously important message from someone or maybe a really funny message from someone (really funny messages are obviously more important that seriously important messages). And, I have trained myself to have that itch all the time, the itch for more information, the desire to answer the queries that naturally pop in my head when I am having any experience. This desire can be immediately fulfilled if I just get up and go get my device, my auxiliary brain, my window on the world!!
I struggle. I know that less is more and I know that living with distraction as the rule means that I don't get complete fulfillment from any one singular activity I am doing but I am also a member of the online world that keeps running at full speed no matter what break I think I need to take from it.
The question then becomes how much am I willing to miss out on, both right in front of me and online.