Saturday, January 11, 2014

Distracted...er, what?

Here's the problem.  I wake up in the mood to write.  I feel relaxed, semi-coherent, creative and analytical.  I sit in my worn, navy blue office chair, the one with coffee and cat food stains on the arms, press my monitor's "on" button, see the mailbox on my homepage and...there goes the writing, sucked into an email or Facebook vortex some would say is easily avoidable by a simple refusal to look in the inbox.  But since I can't seem to ignore the obvious, I also can't decide which is worse-- email or Facebook--or if each is equally evil.

Email.  Within the deadly inbox are work related messages that need answering, SPAM that deserves deleting and ads worth checking out.  On a good day, I become engrossed in my job first thing in the morning, responding to requests for information or attempts to set up meetings.  On a not-so-good day, I pounce on web links that take me to virtual malls filled with shiny things and new clothes.  I take advantage of the coupons and actually charge a shirt or two, perhaps even a pair of pants.  About 25% of the time, I end up returning the clothing because it doesn't fit right or the kids don't like it.  While I have an excuse (I've gained weight and nothing fits anymore), mindless shopping is generally not justifiable.

Then, there is the deadly Facebook.  Facebook stalks me in email and in my morning routine, making it perhaps twice as dangerous as just plain email.  Each morning, I receive notifications of comments and follow-up comments related to my previous day's activities.  And each morning, I am compelled to visit the malevolent site and sift through posts on pets, politics and the occasional poem.  If I am lucky, I take the time to read the poem and get inspired.  But usually, I skim, move to the video under it, the 60-second shot of a kitty drowning in a bowl of kibbles.  I then skip over half the political articles, read the headlines from the news sources, grin at stupid cartoons and snarky e-cards and hit "like" whenever something amuses me.  Sometimes I share my findings or take useless personality quizzes.  I now know which Disney princess and Harry Potter characters I am, but I've not written a thing.  When I actually listen to my muse, I use Facebook to post entries like the one I am writing right now, but I can't seem to ignore the often irrelevant information circulated by 450+ friends who have the best of intentions and who entertain me for hours.

The upside of these distractions is I network and learn.  The downside is, I get distracted and can't focus even if I have a particular topic I want to blog about.  Because I was once diagnosed with ADHD, I could attribute the behavior to the condition, but I'm afraid my challenge is too widespread to use ADHD as an excuse.  This is more a problem brought on by the age of information, the culture of rapid input, the need and now habit of moving from site to site, idea to idea, reading to reading, video to video, without stopping to contemplate or fully process any one thing.  Research indicates this phenomenon feeds into ADHD, but we can't all have ADHD.  What we have done is nurture a ridiculous society that encourages shallow thinking.

No matter how much we might enjoy the banter we engage in on Facebook, the promoting of wine and movies and the infinite choices of music we are convinced represent our inner selves, the fact remains we are no longer engaging in deep discussion.  Rather, we post a sentence or two that may or may not relate to the original post, might introduce a deep thought but never expound upon it and then walk away.  While there are some seemingly long exchanges on more serious topics, usually politics, these are not the same kinds of responses we might give on a blog or in a physical forum.  There is no time, no interest.  There are too many interesting things out there that demand our limited attention.

So this is my attempt to overcome the morning's distractions--blog about the distractions.  Writing gurus advise writers to write what they know, get down on paper or screen the familiar and use experience to elucidate.  The advice has become trite, but I am taking it, an attempt to overcome the hyper-stimulation we know as the Internet.  Whether or not this entry is trite, I can't say, but at least it is relatively focused. For that, I will call this morning's exercise successful and point my middle finger at distraction.  The tempter has lost--at least for now.     
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