Information Distraction


Written by Archie Thomas
24 Monday 24th May 2010

We have all been there. Sitting around a table with a group of friends. No-one saying a word. Everyone staring (longingly) down at their own illuminated crotches. Occasionally there’s a fidget, a lip curls a nano-inch. Then you hear the ping, the beep, feel the vibration. Someone’s only gone and received a funny text from someone not there. Get in! Everyone cheers up no end. 

Yup, that’s right – everyone over the age of six and under 44 (who does not live in Utah or North Korea) is hopelessly addicted to their treasured handheld electrical device and lives their life through it. If they aren’t twiddling with the rollerball of their blackberry, they are flicking through their iPod or caressing the screen of their sexy new iPhone. In short, their life is being joy-sticked by a palm pilot. Why memorise any actual telephone numbers when you can effortlessly access your contacts?
IMHO, this is a pretty sad state of affairs. It’s like the premise for a dystopian sci-fi film come true: May 2010 … cyberspace is the new local high street. Ether-based social networking sites replace bricks and mortar constructions. Humans stop talking directly to each other, preferring to interact with one another via robots. Robots get viruses …
One of the best ever ad taglines was from The Economist: “What’s the loneliest place in the world? The edge of a conversation.” Well, the sad truth is now that almost every conversation – good or bad - is under fire from the encroaching techedge(©). Human meet-ups are under constant invasion from powerful electronic devices that positively demand one's undivided attention to the detriment of actual human interaction. Their beeping red lights are narcotic. And we’re all mainlining. Not convinced? Next time you’re on a plane check out how fast your fellow travellers turn on their mobiles once they get the tarmac green-light. Lightening!
Smart people understand the dangers presented by the creeping technological takeover of our everyday existences. Addressing some uni students, dead cool Barack Obama recently said: "With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations - none of which I know how to work - information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation."
And he’s right, constant distraction leaves us constantly distracted. How are you going to enjoy a walk in bluebell woods if you know you are just two clicks away from your Twitter account and burning news on Justin Bieber’s latest hairstyle?
And Obama is not the only stone-cold genius aware of the perils of creeping tech-over. According to the Daily Mail, billionaire retail giant Sir Philip Green eschews modern smartphones in favour of the obsolete yet easy-to-use Nokia 6130. He so loves his achingly simple nine-year old Nokia that he’s bought the entire back stock. Take that techno advance!
But where is this constant inundation of (often pointless) information leading us? For starters, most young people have the attention span of a gnat on crack. Hence the explosion in popularity on short online videos (bitesize, easy), or the voracious demand for sensually overloading crashbangwallop action sequences in most movies. Hollywood knows you need to blow up a car or bridge at least every ten minutes to keep the teens interested (and make a blockbuster bust blocks).
My advice: turn off your phone, don’t take it all in.
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