Drawn to distraction

With the recent stiffer legislation targeting distracted drivers from talking and texting while driving, I couldn’t help but stop to consider is this enough.

We are such an incredibly distracted society.

We have been led to believe and have completely bought the idea that more is better.  Why do only one thing, when you can do two or even three.

Why drive from A to B, when you can do that AND organize a meeting, or go over today’s numbers or referee an argument between your kids or catch up on the latest neighbourhood gossip.

Apparently, at the current rate, distracted driving is set to become the leading contributor to deaths over impaired driving and speeding.

As disturbing as this is, that’s not the part the haunts me.  For me it’s  almost compulsive need of people to always being doing something.  Even when they are doing something.

In a completely unofficial observation during my drives to and from work, I pass quite a few people standing at bus stops or walking along the side-walk.  Well over 50%, and I even want to push this up to like 75%, are talking on the phone, texting or staring at a screen.  My absolute favourite is the mom (or caretaker) pushing a stroller, pulling along a dog on a leash, and talking to whoever is on the other end of her phone.  Now that’s maximizing your time.

Indulge me just a bit more, because it’s not just the drivers and pedestrians who are guilty of this.  I look at my son (and all the other 15-year old boys that he represents). He is never beyond 2 metres of his iPod and/or laptop.  By the way, in case you didn’t know, these are meant to be complimentary devices.  You see, the game on the iPod is very useful in filling the empty void created by the laptop downloading a movie on Netflix.

TV viewers are encouraged to watch shows while simultaneously following on their ipads so they can get the behind the scenes, Twitter feed, and Instagram photos that completely overshadow the actual program.

Lest I sound like some grumpy Gen-X who wants to go back to good old days of Cassettes and Atari.  I love technology, I like the windows it opens (he he), and I have gleefully participated in a FB feed that was 100% more entertaining than the actual presenter we were skewering.

I am not talking about enhancing and get the most out of an event or activity, I am talking about filling space and time just because you can.

What has really made me aware of all this is that I recently got my motorcycle license and have been cruising around the area.  Let me tell you, there is absolutely no room for distraction on a bike.  None.  On a bike you have to compensate for everything and everyone around you.  You have to notice that the person in front of you is staring at their crotch again (people, you are not fooling anyone) and you have to realize that buddy in the next lane who has his phone to his ear does not see you.

But the bonus of all this is that because I am focused solely on driving, it is absolutely liberating and calming.  I can’t think about work, my kids or any number of things that I need to remind myself to do.  Things that I would either try to mull over or drown out with the radio in my car.  Things that I am sure other people try to resolve while they are driving or walking.

We seem to naturally gravitate towards distraction.

Ultimately, distraction has consequences – whether it’s not noticing that your kid dropped their stuffy from the stroller as you discussed what you were going to bring to the potluck, or not catching that you were suppose to finish the draft report and send it by the end of day because you were IM-ing your colleague as you listened to your client on the phone, or maybe it’s blowing through a red light because you had to see who just sent you a text…

You can only hope that what you miss is easily retrieved.

Better yet, you can learn to focus on and enjoy what you are doing.