Culture of distraction

28 May 2012

Joe Kraus is a Partner at Google Ventures. Recently, he gave a talk on a topic called “SlowTech”, which talks about our addiction with cellphones, computers, etc. How these distractions are impacting our society today, our future generation tomorrow and what can we do about it. I highly recommend watching it if you have the time:

Here are some stats he shared:

• In the pre-smartphone era we accessed the internet roughly five times per day. Today, with smartphones, we’re accessing it 27 times a day.

• We are 10 IQ points dumber when we're multitasking (same as pulling an all-nighter). We’re also 40% less efficient at whatever it is we’re doing.

• The average teenage girl sends and receives about 4,000 text messages per month, which means they get distracted about every 7 awaken minutes.

Joe also talked about the importance of “gap time” - a time for our mind to make subtle connections. I became extremely aware of its existence after the talk and how it’s increasingly getting worse for myself. Whenever I’m in an elevator, in a cab or waiting for a meeting to start, I’m constantly pulling out my phone and distracting myself. Before these devices, “gap time” allowed us to be more creative and focused.

Cellphones and computers are obviously a very valuable medium. Things we can access on the web today is unimaginable 50 years ago. The device in our pocket is helping us become more productive (in theory), but is also hurting us at the same time. It’s extremely difficult to live without them now that we learned to live with them, it’s also unrealistic to give them up. The main thing is to be aware of the problem and make sure we live as balanced as possible.