We live in a noisy distracted world. Media is everywhere, our smartphone pings us constantly providing updates of everything from the latest news tragedy to our friend’s day out, our colleague’s new puppy and even what your cousin thousands of miles away had for lunch today. Whether it’s the general background noise of life or the constant interaction of social media we live in a 24-7 world that seeks constant distraction from itself. The electronic world constantly beckons. Smartphones – with their unceasing notifications – can be so powerfully habit-forming. You are often in the middle of one thing and the phone or computer pings and causes one more distraction.
We think we are more and more connected but we are ever more alone. We are Alone Together as Sherry Turkle puts it.
Father Distraction trivializes everything.
Think about most of the music, movies and television series that are out now—they’re not designed to enrich your mind or help you to think more clearly about the human condition, but just to grab your attention for a little while. Nothing in them is really very important.
Even if we think about that new greatest arbiter of news and information, Facebook, it similarly trivializes even what is genuinely important. A story about injustice and death in the world can be right next to the latest piece of celebrity gossip. And it’s probably the celebrity gossip which influences the advertisements you see while using the service. And it’s also the celebrity gossip which gets clicked on the most.
Our precious attention and mental energy are getting spent on distractions. It’s one thing to relax a little from time to time, but our diet of distraction has come to dominate our minds. It’s come to the point of spiritual crisis, because we cannot pay attention very well. Everything has to be a sound byte now, or else we can’t grasp it.”
We no longer have time for deep thought, prayer, stillness, everything becomes trivial and shallow. In fact, Nicholas Carr, in his book The Shallows argues that the Internet is even changing the way we think. We no longer think deeply with attention, everything is fleeting, trivial, skimming rather than deep reading.
All these things affect our relationship with God and the “One thing that is needful”.
In this Triodion period I want to lessen the distractions, but still use the Internet for good.
I will be sharing a series of posts on dealing with distractions, the Church fathers on distraction and trying to figure our what we can do as Orthodox Christians in this information rich age of Social Media. Comments always welcome.