Author finds technology’s demand for attention exhausting
By Paula O’Kray
I am so very weary of all the things demanding my attention these days. Can someone please make it all go away?
My day begins with sound. At 7 a.m. my alarm clock goes off, or rather comes on, with music from a local radio station. It used to go off at 6 a.m., but it was almost unbelievable how many times I woke up to that horrid Justin Bieber song so I finally just changed the time I woke up. I also changed the station to ensure that I wake up to anything but that annoying little boy, and life is better now.
However, my phone is also set to go off at the same time, and it sings me a happy but soulless little digital tune. Out of all the options the phone offered for the alarm, I chose the least annoying soulless little digital tune. Always the lesser evil it seems with choices these days.
I don’t hit snooze, because that only means in 10 minutes I will once again be subjected to these minor horrors. I don’t have to worry though, because the dog will eventually take charge of the morning routine. I much prefer the more organic way of waking up … birds chirping, dogs nudging, church bells clattering.
Eventually I roll out and head to the bathroom, where all is mostly quiet, unless someone decides to send me an early morning text. It’s either my daughter with a message for me before she heads out for the day, or a co-worker who is occasionally running behind. It’s amusing that she lets me know, because I’m usually only a step or two behind her. It’s been a “late-off” for a long time now.
I ignore the phone until I’m done with my routine, so I don’t get derailed during the process. I use voice-to-text if I can, so I don’t have to pull out my readers to see what I’m typing. I make sure to check though, because autocorrect is always a little drunk and tries to use words that never come up in a regular conversation in American English. I’m sure there’s a way to tell autocorrect those terms are not in my vocabulary, but I haven’t figured it out yet.
My phone beeps again. This time it’s Panda Pop reminding me that all my lives are restored, and don’t I want to save a few more panda babies right now? It’s amazing how often it needs to remind me. It also needs to let me know if I’m even remotely near a Wifi Network, because, God forbid, I’m disconnected from the rest of the human race for more than five minutes.
Oh, and do I want to update right now? Because there’s a dozen updates waiting patiently to be downloaded.
I asked a friend of mine who works at a phone store if there was a way to limit these notices, since they come disturbingly often, and aren’t what I would refer to as helpful. It would be nice to be able to tell the “smart” phone that, once a day – at the same reasonable hour every day, would suffice. No, she said. Because that would limit your phone’s functionality, and you want your phone to have the latest update so that it works as well for you as possible. Spoken like a true salesperson.
So what I do instead is keep the phone on silent, and check it when it’s convenient for me. Then I’m not distracted constantly with it’s booping and beeping for not-very-important-at-all reasons. If I’m expecting a call, I’ll keep it on vibrate, so it’s interrupting me on a physical level and not a auditory one, which is somewhat less bothersome.
When I get to work, I check emails and Facebook, which has become the new email. Many of my friends consider email obsolete, so if I want to stay connected, I need to check Facebook as well. Facebook sends a sound alert whenever a chat or notification is updated, and depending on how chatty a friend is with responding, it can be exhausting.
There are moments of course, when all message-bearing devices are going off at once, and that’s a special kind of hell. That’s usually when I turn everything off and go outside for a drive, keeping the radio off and just listening to the wind go by. And get some French fries.
During the time it took to write this, my computer has let me know that my Charter settings are out of date, and asked if I would like to try Office 365 for free, several times, all accompanied by a soulless little chime to get my attention as the message slid into view. And a woman named Cortana who lives in my laptop wants to know if I need assistance with any of that.
No, thanks, I just want to sit here and quietly rant into my laptop about all the annoying digital interruptions we’ve all had to learn to live with. But it’s not only my phone and laptop that want attention, my tablet has needs too. My tablet wants me to watch someone do or say something cool on Periscope, an app that allows people to broadcast themselves and allows viewers to chime in with written comments during the “scope.”
Many times it is very interesting, but many times it’s just another talking head going on about nothing. I’ve learned who’s worth watching live and who can wait until I can watch it on replay.
Every app has its own little tune. The weather app warns me about fog, a cold snap, or the thunderstorm headed our way later this evening. My blood donor app is telling me where that pint of blood I just donated is, and Spotify wants to know if I have time to listen to some great new music. Pandora is jealous though, and asks me if I wouldn’t love to listen to a funny clip from Bill Burr right now. The calendar just alerted me that it’s my granddaughter’s birthday and that I should check my mileage on the car in case it’s time for an oil change.
Whew! This is why when I walk the dog, I leave it all behind. I don’t want to know what’s happening or what’s about to happen, what I should be looking at or what someone else is doing right now that I might want to see. I just want to let the world happen around me and enjoy whatever that is. It could even be (gasp) boring! And that would be a treat in itself.
Earlier this year my kids were thinking about getting me a Fitbit as a birthday gift. If you haven’t heard of these scary little devices, they sit on your wrist and remind you of all the things you need to do, where you need to be and alert you to incoming messages. I looked them straight in the eye and said, “Don’t you dare get me another thing that boops and beeps at me!” I got the obligatory eye roll. “Oh, Mom!” they cried.
Now I realize that a lot of people really enjoy their Fitbit, and that’s great … if you’re a person who sees the glass as half full. I’m the kind of person who would only see what wasn’t yet done. I’d just end up feeling bad and beating myself up about it, and what good would that do? Wearing a device that constantly badgers me about all those endless notifications, I would probably end up tearing the thing off and throwing it into traffic.
Come bedtime, it brings me great joy to be able to turn off every last little digital demon, so that my world goes silent and stays that way … at least until 7 a.m. the next morning.