Coming to grips with the culture of digital distraction…

Digital Distraction

The Web gives; the Web takes away.  Blessed is the person who understands how the Web works.


·         It enables 24/7 connections and the possibility of “multitasking.”  It takes away “mindfulness”—the ability to focus on the people and the places in our presence. 

·         It provides endless information and entertainment.  It takes away “gap time,” time away from distractions that allows us to catch our breath.

·         It develops quick-thinking mental skills that can flit from one task to another.  It takes away the creative, contemplative, thought-consolidating capacities of our brain.


As this brief list indicates, we’re slowly coming to understand the tradeoffs that come from living in a world of constant connectivity.  The author of this list, Joe Kraus, is no Luddite—no hater of technology.  He has served as Director of Product Management at Google and is currently a partner at Google Ventures, Google’s private market investment arm.  At Google Ventures, he juggles responsibilities in several areas:  mobile internet, payment and financing services, gaming and local services.


In “Slow Tech,” a talk given in early 2012, Kraus explored the growing “crisis of attention.”


Look at how internet access has changed since smart phones came into being (and this data is a year old, so I’m certain it’s even more in this direction). In the pre-smartphone era we accessed the internet roughly five times per day, in longer chunks. Today, with smartphones, we’re accessing it 27 times a day.


The effect of all of this is that we’re increasingly distracted. Less and less able to pay attention to anything for what used to be a reasonable length of times.


The funny part about distraction is that it’s a worsening condition. The more distracted we are, the more likely we are to get distracted. …


There are real costs to allowing our attention and consciousness to be constantly fragmented—costs to our relationships and costs to society and creativity. …


What are we losing—of ourselves, of our relationships to one another, of what in many ways, I would say, our humanity.


Joe Kraus’s “SlowTech” talk is just over 15 minutes long.  It’s not just analysis.  He concludes with a thoughtful section called “What Can We Do?”



“Slow Tech” by Joe Kraus
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3 Responses to “Coming to grips with the culture of digital distraction…”

  1. I wrote on this in 1997 in The Soul in Cyberspace.

  2. PowerPoint is a tremendous part of the problem.

  3. I support the premodern classroom: books, humans, notes, talking, thinking, praying. No devices.