Filling in All the Gaps with TechnologyJune 7, 2012
For years I’ve had the displeasure of explaining to people exactly what it means to have Attention Deficit Disorder. While I don’t consider having ADD to be a problem anymore, there are many people who pay me sideways glances, as if trying to detect some hidden psychoses buried in all of my behavior. Such is life. I’ve learned to be quite content with the constant challenge of focusing on the task ahead and not allowing it to meander away to a colorful bauble.
Therefore, I take pointed interest when I read that most people in our culture over the last three or four years have developed a type of ADD. This problem does not originate in their biology but from their environment.
In a recent blog entry by Joe Kraus he points out that most people now have a unhealthy relationship with their cell phones. He observes, “I don’t think I have a healthy relationship with mine. I feel a constant need to pull it out – to check e-mail, to cruise the Internet, to see if there is something interesting happening right now. It’s constantly pulling on my attention. There are studies that have been shown recently where people have reported at a rate of 35% that they check their phone before they even get out of bed in the morning. Do you do this? I do. If I let it, it easily fills up those gaps in my day – some gaps of boredom, some of solitude.”
Another study has shown that the average teenage girl – mind you, we are talking about the average girl; some girls do more – uses her cell phone to text an average of 4000 times a month. That equals one text for every 8 min. of waking time. The number is only slightly less for boys; 3000 texts per month.
What this means is that cell phones, televisions, video games, computers, MP3 players, tablets are filling up every gap in every moment and every day of our lives. We interpret this to mean we are able to do more with our brains. But here’s the truth: we are constantly teaching our brains to be distracted by every piece of information and data that comes within observing distance.
Krause goes on to point out this may have some kind of evolutionary roots to it. He notes that over the centuries it is the Hunter/Gatherer who was constantly wary of danger from every direction that lived when something dangerous decided to attack. Those who are not easily distracted by swiftly moving things in the peripheral vision don’t live very long when they’re out in the wild. He postulates that our surviving ancestors were able to keep living by becoming good at distraction. Whether or not you accept the validity of evolutionary roots to anything or not, it should be obvious that we are becoming more and more distracted in everyday life.
So who cares?
Most psychologists who study the concepts of creativity and insight observe that the majority of our most creative moments happen when we are not keeping our minds busy on many things. Those momentary “gaps” in our day are crucially necessary to tie together many of the loose ends that will eventually join to form a creative thought or mindset. Without those gaps, we never really see the bigger picture. As Krause says, “…gaps used to happen all the time. Now they’re disappearing. You’re eating lunch with a friend and they excuse themselves to the restroom. A gap. Now you check your phone because being unstimulated makes you feel anxious. Waiting time in a line at the bank? Used to be a gap. Now it’s an opportunity to send e-mail or text”.
So what can we do about this? I really think the number one answer is overcoming this dread of these gaps. Is it possible for you to embrace those moments of reflection, those unexpected times with nothing to do? If you can build in habit of allowing your day to have a lot more gaps than it presently has, it is more than likely you will be able to hear what has been rumbling around in the far corners and recesses of your mind. For those who are followers of God these gaps are the moments when Holy Spirit can come in and tie together all the loose ends of the things that his voice have been trying to indicate to you.
What then will you do? In the next two articles, we’ll explore how to make room for more gaps and how to utilize them to bring good mental health to your life.