I just read an interview with the publisher of a new online magazine, The Disconnect. The interview’s title pretty much says it all, “The Online Magazine You Can’t Read Online” (Nautilus, 16 Aug 2018). Wait, what?
You are, no doubt, reading these words on a digital device of some sort. And it’s almost certainly the case that you landed here because you saw a link on another web page and clicked on it.
We are online a lot these days and that means we spend hours, perhaps many hours, immersed in a world of links, clicks, and the digital road taken. And taken. And taken. Until … we are lost, wondering why we didn’t download that homework or reading assignment, or write that lab report or term paper.
Whether one has recognized it or not, everyone has experienced “digital distraction” of this sort. What you might not know, however, is that the many of the designers of our online environments intentionally build in tricks and traps that promote distracted behavior, and they do this in order to turn us (that’s me and you) into digital addicts who can’t put our devices down.
There is good news, however. There is a movement – several movements, actually – that are fighting back and its getting publicized in national media. Here are some links to recent news articles and organizations that are working against digital addiction: Continue reading
Could this be the year we put an end to digital distractions in our lives? If my own life is any indication, I strongly doubt it.
I crossed the Rubicon this month and purchased my first (yes, first!) smartphone. I had been living quite happily with a flip phone for a dozen years or more, and a ‘hockey puck’ for another dozen before that. I carried Flippy only for emergencies and the occasional out-of-town trip so my family knew better than to call me. But we’re considering cutting the landline at long last and the unlimited calls/text option on my flip phone was more expensive than adding a smartphone to my wife’s plan.
One of the first things I did with my new smartphone was to delete most of the apps. I needed a phone, not another device, but then the trouble started. The phone was in my briefcase. As I went about my day I discovered that my digital decision tree had subtly changed. Work on the laptop, the tablet, or … the phone? Yikes! I hadn’t expected this.
Here are 4 recent news articles, all fairly breezy, about digital distractions of one sort or another. Take your pick. Continue reading
There are many types of meditation techniques, but nearly all of them have one instruction in common: when you discover your mind has been wandering, gently pause, observe that you have wandered, and then return to the instructions.
This act of changing direction functions as an attentional reset. It takes only a few moments, but it allows you to reset your focus, your attention, and (at least temporarily) free your mind from one task so that it can take up another.
A 15-minute meditation session might provide over a hundred opportunities for attentional resets, but you don’t need to take a 15-minute break to reset your attention. A few well-timed breaths, a short walk around your building, listening to some music, or almost any focused activity that you can give your undivided attention to, may provide a much needed reset.
I’m discovering that there is fairly large research literature on attentional resets (I’ll just call them “resets”) and I’ll try to share some of that with you. For starters, here is an article, “Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain” (D.J. Levitin, Sunday Review, NY Times, 9 Aug 2014) and two posts from this blog:
What happens when we sit quietly in meditation? Try to answer this before you read on. Realize that your answers might be coming from several points of view: experience, expectation, or hope. Also consider that, while there may be no single right answer that applies to every person, let alone to every meditation session, there is nothing wrong if some aspects of your meditation experience begin to seem familiar over time.
Meditation traditions (zen, for example) often encourage meditation without any thought of personal gain. However, this has not prevented researchers from looking for possible benefits (and harms) that meditation might bring about. Stress, focus, attention management have all been investigated, and now researchers are looking into academic performance.
Here are my top picks from the Feb ’16 issue of the Mindfulness Research Monthly newsletter, a publication of the American Mindfulness Research Association (AMRA). The newsletter lists several interesting articles describing the effects of mindfulness interventions on military personnel. My top picks include studies of the connections between mindfulness practice and perceived stress in college students, successful parenting behaviors, and stress levels during romantic conflicts. I also picked out several review articles examining the status of mindfulness research with regard to job burnout, executive functioning, ADHD, and possible concerns about the suitability of mindfulness practice.
“What is this?” asks a zen koan. I often feel that way about meditation. What is this? Is meditation so different from the rest of my life? If it truly is, if meditation is the life arena where focus and attention reign, and the rest of is ruled by the demons of distraction, where should I live?