Coming to grips with the culture of 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?”