Last week I took a trip home for a few days. When I booked my flight I was pleasantly surprised at the cheap rate I found from an airline that actually allowed me to check a bag for free! When I told friends what I was flying the reaction was often the same, praising the perks which including complimentary food, leg room and individual TVs for each seat.
When I settled into my seat the TV in front of me was a pleasant blue screen welcoming me. The moment the plane took off, that same screen began playing a circuit of 10-minute spots to promote all the places the airline flew to. The man in front of me had his headphones on at the first moment it was permissible and had to be reminded twice to take them off as we were about to land. (photo from theseednetwork.com)
I had work to do and didn’t pay any attention to the TV in front of me, or the one playing to the empty seat next to me. But mid-way through the flight I found myself highly distracted and unable to concentrate on the writing in front of me. While I had no idea what was happening on the screen in front of me, and while I wasn’t listening to the show, my eyes couldn’t help but flash to the screen several times a minute.
I dimmed the screen and dimmed the one next to me so that they became a blank black screen – WHOA! What a difference that made for my ability to work and concentrate. No one in the seats around me had their TVs turned off, although the majority of the people didn’t have their headphones plugged into the show.
Now I’m the first to admit that I write better when there is subtle music playing in the background. Growing up, my dad thought that was crazy but I know it’s effective for me. Yet, at the same time I’ve noticed more and more that the millennial generation, and everyone that came after us, has a distinct inability to disconnect.
We keep our smartphones close, the radio always on or the TV playing in the background. We have alerts that pop up on our computer and feel the need to constantly check our multiple email accounts incessantly. We have social media that needs out constant attention if it is going to be effective and fun. And let’s not forget the ‘community’ games that require us to respond to quickly.
It’s all well and good, but what is happening to us as we remain constantly connected? Every now and then I have a day that I’ll dub my ADD day. I find myself jumping between webpages – Facebook to Twitter to email to work email to Twitter to Pinterest to a favorite blog to Facebook to work email to Google News to Facebook – all without any real purpose. When that happens I know I need to step back, disconnect and do something that requires non-technological brain power.
I think we could all benefit from disconnected days or hours.