The Days of Distractions

Is it just me or it’s getting even harder these days to concentrate on something? Even when writing these sentences, I interrupted myself a couple times to change the song on my Spotify, read incoming messages on my phone and turn off the light.

I wonder when, and why, this change happened. Because back then, I’d like to think that I have a decent attention span. I was the kind of person that work on something until it’s done, no rest and all. The kind of person that won’t put down a book until I finished it in one seating, who would rather fake sick and skip school rather than leaving Deathly Hallows unfinished.

And yet lately, I find it quite challenging to stay focus on one task alone without getting distracted along the way. I keep getting interrupted – or self-interrupt myself – even when doing the most simple thing.

Though apparently, this is a common phenomenon in our society these days. According to a 2015 study, people nowadays tend to lose concentration after roughly eight seconds. Which means we’re more easily distracted than a goldfish, whose average attention span is nine seconds. Kudos to the goldfish, we owe them an apology for constantly making them the butt of a joke for their inability to focus. Turns out, we’re no better.

It’s not rocket science to determine the thing that cause this epidemic: internet-enabled smartphone. I mean, chances are you’ve already notice that your phone is the main culprit that pulled you off from task on hand. You’ll be writing an assignment, or reading something somewhere, and not five minutes later your phone will light up. An Instagram notification, perhaps. Maybe an incoming WhatsApp from that one annoying family group chat, or a broadcast message from an official account on Line. Or worse, it might be just another spam messages from your internet provider instead. Whatever it might be, it already succeeded in slightly ruining your focus. And chances are, what started as reading one Instagram notification turns into hours of stalking people’s Story, aimlessly scrolling the Explore section, catching up on gossip accounts’ latest posts, and posting something yourself.

This so-called pattern happened quite a lot, particularly when I’m reading a book. Finishing a paperback takes so long these days. 500-something pages book that I used to devour in one seating takes a week or two now. It’s getting harder to immerse myself in a plot or understanding a concept and idea. I reread a paragraph over and over because I kept getting distracted halfway through. I’ll be reading the first twenty pages when the sudden urge to watch Lisa Eldridge’s tutorial kicked in, or a notification from Dan and Phil Games came through and I have to stop life for a second to watch the new video. It’s beyond frustrating, and oftentimes embarrassing for a self-proclaimed bookworm like yours truly here. Reading used to be ma thing yow, but now I have around thirty unfinished books scattered in my room with no immediate plan to read them.

And the more I observed, the more I realized similar situation happened to the people around me as well. I’m not the only one finding it difficult to finish a task without getting distracted by the internet. Some of my friends have taken to uninstall social media platform such as Instagram and the likes from their phone when in the middle of an important assignment. Curb the temptation before it becomes a real problem, that kind of thinking. And they’re not the only one, no. I’ve read that many people – both young and old – find that removing social media – or in some case, the entire smartphone itself – from their daily life is refreshing. Not only they’re able to gain better focus, but living life without smartphone also makes them calmer and happier.

And then in the other end of the spectrum, there’s this one acquaintance of mine whose a notorious smartphone addict. There are many times when she would suddenly pulled back from a conversation to read incoming notifications on her phone. It’s quite a weird situation when we’re sitting barely 20 centimeters from each others, and while everyone was laughing or talking animatedly she would just sat there looking down on her phone, turning blind and deaf to her surrounding and missed a whole chunk of conversation. It’s not that big of a deal actually, but when it happened quite often it became noticeable.

So is this a bad thing, moving away from the linear way of doing things? Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m no scientist, and the purpose of this long, rambling piece was merely to presented a passing thought into a more constructed form without aiming for a definite right or wrong conclusion or a promising solution.

One thing I know for sure is that not all smartphone-induced distractions are bad. I mean, I can’t count how many times pretending to be so immersed with my phone saved me from awkward situations and unwanted conversations. And I’m definitely not the only one doing this. I see you, fellow unfairly-labelled-as-antisocial-in-social-gathering-because-we’re-always-on-our-phone squad.

P.S – For further reading there are these articles from Time, The Guardian and Sydney Morning Herald. No recommended books or journals because I’m lazy.

P.P.S – Yes, all future posts will have the same unnecessarily dramatic title because why the hell not.

P.P.P.S – This entry is freakin 913 words long. Bacot tanpa mikir, substansi, apalagi referensi memang gampang, em.

Written while listening to: Friday Night – Mamamoo feat. Junggigo