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The more you train your brain to pay attention to distractions, the more you get distracted and the less able you are to even focus for brief periods of time on the two or three things you were trying to get done in your ‘multi-tasking’ in the first place. The ones that didn’t look over and see the lion coming to eat them are NOT our ancestors. We expect more from technology and less from each other”. At the heart of manners is a consideration of others. How many times, guys, have you been barked at by your wife because instead of giving full attention to what she was saying, you were looking at your phone. “There is something more important than you and it’s not here in this room.” The second thing I think we’re losing is creativity and insight. Our mind wanders but it’s not constantly being bombarded with new information (at least until we can take our phones in the shower which I’m sure is being worked on…). Time for our minds to make subtle connections and insights. Simply put, at the heart of creativity, insight, imagination and humaneness is an ability to pay attention to ANYTHING – our ideas, our line of thinking, each other. So, hopefully, by this point I’ve convinced you of a few things No, I think the solution is to balance the DISTRACTING brain training you’re doing every single day with training that strengthens long-form ATTENTION. For some that means leaving the phone and going for a 15 minute walk. The primary insight of the Slow Tech folks is quite interesting. An ability to make real human connection by not signaling that there might be something better on his smartphone to look at.

The more distracted we are, the more likely we are to get distracted.

A crisis of attention I want to ask people a simple question: are you happy with your relationship with your phone. I don’t think I have a healthy relationship with mine. If I let it, it easily fills up those gaps in my day—some gaps of boredom, some of solitude.

I feel a constant need to pull it out – to check email, to text, to see if there is something interesting happening RIGHT NOW. [show the 2 slides on ‘phone addiction’ and ‘35% look before getting out of bed’]. 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).

The reason why that’s the case is that when you practice distraction (which is what multi-tasking really is – paying attention to something that distracted you from what you were originally paying attention to), you’re training your brain. Why do most all of us seem to fall prey to these devices even as we know they’re causing a real problem for us? The first is that we’re perfectly mal-adapted, biologically speaking, to these devices. We’re radically over-developing the parts of quick thinking, distractable brain and letting the long-form-thinking, creative, contemplative, solitude-seeking, thought-consolidating pieces of our brain atrophy by not using them. Part II – What are we losing as a result of our short attention span and easy distractability? You’re eating lunch with a friend and they excuse themselves to the restroom. Now, you pull our your phone because being unstimulated makes you feel anxious. We didn’t think gap time and “boredom” were valuable.

You’re training your brain to pay attention to distracting things. When our ancestors, the Geico guys, were sitting out on the savanna and the tree next to them rustled. My favorite summary line on this whole topic comes from Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor who studies technology and society. Digital connections offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Now that we’re losing it, we get a sense of just how valuable it was. Besides taking a break from distraction, another step is to ACTIVELY TRAIN your long-form attention and mindfullness. Whatever form it takes, make it a DAILY practice of slowing down. Perhaps the most interesting or provocative approach to solving it, harkens back to that line at the end of the Microsoft commercial – ‘we need a phone to save us from our phones’. There is a small academic movement called Slow Tech.

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