It’s no secret that humans are increasingly connected. While that’s awesome in some ways, it also leads to way more wasted time and distractions. It’s not hard to imagine that, even a hundred years ago, people were much more focused and attentive--both interpersonally and intellectually. What that means for civilization, human development, and learning for the long term, I can’t say. I’m sure some really smart scientists and philosophers are working on solving that very issue as you’re reading this.
Just because I don’t know exactly where all this distraction is leading, I can talk about the 5 biggest distractions in everyday life that are zapping your brain power. Some things you might be acutely aware of, while others might be lurking in your subconscious, mostly unbeknownst to you. What you do with this info is up to you, but hopefully becoming a bit more aware of where your attention is going will allow you to eschew some of these major time wasters and spend your time living more thoughtfully.
- Cell Phones - Everyone knows that cell phones are time wasters. Even people who spend all of their time on their cell know that it’s not a great expenditure of time. Most statistics say that folks spend an average of 3 hours every day on with their shiny little toys. What would happen if folks spent that time reading, walking, hiking, or talking to each other instead? Might be cool.
- Social Media - This particular time waster is locked hand-in-hand with cell phones. Social media is a huge drain on our brains. Study after study says that social media is bad for our self esteem, happiness, kindness, and overall productivity, but we can’t let it go--probably because it’s addictive. Kick the habit and watch your life turn around.
- Advertising - Cell phones and social media have tons of advertising embedded in them. In fact, many businesses do their advertising exclusively on social media. But advertising is much more prolific than just on our screens. On billboards alongside roads, plastered on the side of buses, and even nestled in trash cans, advertising is everywhere. The bad part about advertising is that it’s really good at getting our attention, even if we don’t realize it. Try counting the amount of ads you hear on the radio every morning, the posters you see in windows, and the quantity of billboards you see. You’ll run out of fingers and toes while adding them up really quickly. What can we do about it, though? Well, we could try what this city in Brazil did and ban all advertising in public spaces. That would be a great start.
- Television - This is another no brainer. I’ll be the first to say that TV isn’t always bad. I watch Jeopardy every night. But if you sit in front of the television from the minute you get home from work until you go to bed at night, it’s basically doing all of your thinking for you. It’s telling you what to focus on. It’s telling you what to do. Why are we letting a glowing window of light on our walls dictate so much of our lives?
- Politics - This might be a controversial inclusion, but bear with me. There’s no question that politics are important to understand and participate in. In fact, being well-informed might be more important than ever in our current political climate. With that being said, it’s extremely easy to let politics overtake your life and guide every single life decision that you make. There’s a definite difference between being informed and being obsessed, and there are probably too many folks obsessing over every little minutia. That can drain some significant brain power.
So there you have it--my completely biased list of the 5 biggest brain drains in our modern society. If you’re wondering what you should do instead of spend your time with these distractions, I have a few suggestions: go for a walk, meditate, pet a dog, go bird watching, read a book, practice mindfulness, try a new restaurant, rock in a rocking chair, appreciate the wind blowing through your hair, write a poem, draw a picture, throw a baseball, laugh with your kids, cook dinner, ride a bike, go rock climbing, hike a mountain, mosey along a trail, catch fireflies, play ping pong, jump rope, stargaze, drop sick beats, sing a song, eat an apple....