Distraction, Clinical and Cultural: How Serious?

John Dabrowski LICSW
Neponset Health Center
Geiger Gibson Community Health Center

We arrive once again at another holiday season, deep into the Digital Era, when the wealth of miraculous modern devices that inform and entertain is more impressive and plentiful than ever. Many of this year’s gifts will be the updated, more efficient and feature-laden versions of last year’s, bringing a commensurate rise, no doubt, in our collective standard of living. Perhaps. A lot of worrisome questions can be raised about all of this, but to raise here one of the original concerns: At what point is it all so distracting that it presents serious problems?

Some studies suggest that overdependence on digital reading and learning, with the tangential temptations endemic to digitalized texts, adversely affects the ability of the brain to follow an extended line of reasoning or material that demands more than ten minutes of concentration. Not to mention the brain’s normal predilection to distraction in the first place – we can’t resist it without effort, in the first place. Throw in texting and GPS and the current marketing of automobiles more as “interconnective devices” than transportation, and it may be time to reconsider the sanity of all this. A trend I have personally noticed in my practice is a disturbing uptick in trauma cases of people who have been violently rearended. Is the rise in documented ADHD, now 11% of 11-14 year olds in the US (according to the CDC) worth mentioning here?

This holiday season, consider leaving the devices behind occasionally and taking a walk, preferably on a sunny day, alone with your thoughts. Or go with a friend. Or your kids. Focus on the moment, see what you get. And please treat driving like the demanding, responsible activity that it is.


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