The war of distraction: And why we’re losing

As I write this I’m distracted.

I’m distracted because this is the world I live in. This is what I’m used to.

At the bottom of the page I see a blinking Facebook notification. I keep looking down at it until I’m tempted to see who it is or what they said. I guess it’s THAT important.

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I’m distracted just like the two kids in front of me in the lounge of this YMCA who have coloring books spread out on their laps but their hands work vigorously at a small game console. Headphones keep out the sounds of the other children in the pool behind them. We meet eyes briefly before they go back to their game and I go back to this white screen…with that darn blinking Facebook icon again.

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I’m distracted because there’s a TV hanging from the corner of the room and they’re talking about the Superbowl. I’ve seen the interviews before but my eyes are still drawn to the players, even though there’s no sound. But it’s something to watch. A young guy in the corner stares at it blankly. Distracted.

So suddenly what I was going to write about doesn’t matter as much now—not as much as this does.

Our world is too distracted. And it’s killing us without us noticing. It’s a war we’re losing.

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We don’t notice because, well, we’re distracted.

We’re sedated by flickering televisions and abstract games that plunge our minds into a reality that doesn’t exist. We’re tranquilized by “walls” and “profiles” and “friend” lists that suddenly define who we are and our importance more than what we do outside of the screen. We’re lulled to sleep by the buzz of media, movies, gossip magazines, chat rooms, text messages, and Candy Crush marathons. Slowly and surely Satan is making sure that our precious bodies and minds are stupefied and no longer needed for contentment.

I think about the days—not even that long ago *although it seems like it to me*—that running barefoot to the neighbor’s door in the summer and asking if “Johnny can play” was the usual way to make friends. Not friend requests. I think about the days when a boy would have to pick up the phone and call a girl, asking her on a date—not when a text message could mindlessly be punched out and sent. Can you remember the days when family dinners were spent around a table where you could see everyone’s eyes, not their foreheads as they checked blinking phones?

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I can still remember it. But my children won’t be able to. And that hurts me to think about.

I often wonder if Heavenly Father toiled over the fact that one day scriptures wouldn’t be “entertaining” enough to read. That it’d be dry for those who are used to slaying dragons over an X-Box or watching a segment of “Who wore it best?” after an hour or two of an awards show that holds no real importance whatsoever. Did that cause him pain? But of course he knew it’d come. The cunningness of Lucifer knew that a good way to trap anything is to rock it to a blissful, distracted, pleasured sleep where the body is completely unused.

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When I was in college at BYU-Idaho one of the first devotionals I attended was with Elder Bednar–a leader in my church. The talk is titled “Things as They Really Are”. I’ll never forget something he said that day back in 2009. It was the voice of warning.

He said, “If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication.”

Wake up.

I say this with a kind of realization—a realization that I need to wake up more too.

Look around.

Participate more in a real world that still has real sunsets and real people and real adventure. Read books that teach something you can walk away with. Turn off the radio and talk to God for awhile. Turn off the phone long enough to share a dinner with your wife.

Don’t let the world rock you to sleep.

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**Writer’s Note: After reading some comments, I wish to write a disclaimer that I do not believe that all technology or social media is inherently evil. Not at all. Without technology, I couldn’t blog. I couldn’t be employed any longer since managing social media and writing is what I do by trade. And I couldn’t connect with those I love who live thousands of miles away. Technology can be a blessing. But in this post, I wished to reflect on all-consuming habits and distractions that take away from life or face-to-face communication or activities. Thanks for reading!

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18 thoughts on “The war of distraction: And why we’re losing

  1. I agree that these “distractions” can sometimes occupy more of our minds than is necessary and be annoying, particularly at times like going to dinner and everyone is on their phone. However, to directly say that Satan is behind all these devices and it’s all bad is a little extreme. I was also at BYU-Idaho when Elder Bednar was the president of the school. I recall the “laptop initiative” he put into place because technology was amazing and he wanted every student in every class to have one. Now I believe this idea died off due to students affording them, and became unrealistic, but he talked it up greatly and the idea was to embrace change and be current with the times. Make sure students had constant access to the great things that came with connecting to the world of technology. With all the amazing things we have been able to do with Facebook and the internet, it’s not a bad thing at all but rather something that each person needs to know their limits with. This can be said about everything in life. We have had years and years of the television for example and as a young child I was told I couldn’t watch it for all hours of the day. The video games in our household haven’t made my daughter slothful or distracted, but have actually increased her intelligence and brought us together to share in the game play. Someone at church last week gave a lecture to those that were on their Iphones and pads during church and how they need to crack out the books again. To that I say, why? Having my scriptures on my devices and being able to read them and quickly turn to pages on them in church and wherever I may be when I want to read them, has actually increased the amount I read the scriptures. Being able to lesson plan for both Sunday School and for high school which I teach and use the endless amount of resources the internet provides is a joyful thing, not an evil one. Going on Facebook daily to talk to the friends I had from high school who I have not seen in over ten years makes me happy that I can stay in touch with them and it’s like I’m apart of their lives even though I am so far away. These are good things. Of course we should go outside to and see the beauty around us, but many are doing this as well. Everything in balance and moderation. From eating too much chocolate, to gossiping about others, to being on Facebook all day, it needs moderating but none of it alone is an evil thing.

    • I think you’re both mostly right on this.

      Technology is not inherently evil, it is all blessings of additional knowledge from God and it is here to help us. It is how we use technology that can be wrong or even evil. Radio is a great blessing of communication across the world. Telephone, TV, internet, all increased blessings. Computer and databases that allow us to process and access massive amounts of information are a blessing that can be used in so many great ways. Facebook, Twitter, etc, they all are ways to mass communicate and stay in touch with family, friends, and asociates across our wide world. These are all great blessings when used right.

      However, these things can also all be used for great evil. Allowing some obscure someone with an evil inclination to easily find support among others with a similar inclination is bad for all of us. Vulgar and offensive speech, or destructive perspectives, can be spread around easily to the masses and bring us all down. Enticing images of evil temptation can be easily distributed and accessed leading people into bad thoughts and actions. And as Kayla is describing yes, fun and entertainment can quickly distract us from more important things in life. I would relate this to the sin of idolness and it can become a great temptation to do nothing really important but rather just fill our thoughts and time each day with ‘stuff’ instead of doing good.

  2. HI! My name is shelly, and I am a computer addict. This post was written for me …I really do need to take a step back. God is my all in all. I need to focus on him and not all this stuff…because its just stuff not real. Love your posts. All of them.

  3. Wow. How true. I wonder how long before the current generation, or one following, will wake up and consider how detached they’ve become from society and from their own friends. I suppose at that time, picking up the phone and talking will be considered “retro” 🙂

  4. In reply to Stephanie:
    I think you may have missed her main point here. She’s not saying that technology is something you should never use because it in fact makes things easier for us, instead chose time to reconnect with people and the world the way God intended. Re: face to face.

  5. I hesitate to even comment because then you know I was on my IPad reading instead of having a face to face conversation with my husband, but in all honesty, he’s snoring on the couch. Truely, thank you. I realize I am spending too much time with my technology than I am with with the things that really matter to my eternal salvation. I am taking your words to heart.

  6. You know it’s true when you’re reading the blog and a text pops up and you unknowing and ever so ironically double tap the text as apart of second nature. As Bart would say AIKARUMBA!! This one his home I know I’m being swallowed up in the ‘flashing lights’. That’s heaps Kayla! Lots of love and appreciation all the way from Australia 🙂 xoxo

  7. No doubt, this was a divinely inspired message. I needed to hear this. The quote from your teacher touched a chord . Thank you.

  8. You have such a wonderful way of saying things that need to be said. As to the scriptures being “boring,” I just read an amazing story of a guy named Ammon who had some incredible skills with a slingshot and sword…

  9. My kids are still little, but I don’t think all hope is lost for future generations! For sure, we all need to stop being so distracted (myself included). But the truth is that technology was put her to both bless us, and hurt us. It is up to the parents to protect future generations from the part that hurts us. I’m not saying you aren’t right, because you absolutely are, but the part where your children won’t be able to remember a time when they run next door to ask a kid to play or sit at the dinner table looking their family members in the eyes is not true in my little family. My kids spend plenty of time in the neighborhood running around with friends, and we have dinner together every night with good conversation. So, I believe that all hope is not lost, and it’s up to us as parents to make sure that they are not distracted. We need to be the examples. And, if we do the work, our children WILL know what it’s like to have similar childhoods to what we had. We can after all make rules that say no phones at the table, and enforce them.

  10. I’ve thought about this blog for a few days now, my dear Kayla. I am thankful for time with the screen for many reasons. I get to watch you grow into grown-up Kayla, for goodness sakes!! 🙂 I do admit that it can be consuming, but I also see so much good in it all and I’ll tell you why. Please know that I welcome your opinion that you have written and am grateful for moments of reflection that you have given me.

    I live alone. It’s a choice that I made for myself. My family lives all over the country and the closest relative is my brother, who lives about 16 hours from me. I have watched my nephews and niece grow up over FB, which is sad, but I got to watch them grow up, see their interests, communicate with them the way that they would communicate – through social media, texting, watching their youtubes, etc… – which I would never do if all I did was talk on the phone and write letters. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them. I do wish I lived closer to them, but I am not willing to move and they are not, either.

    I have enjoyed learning about what my former students are doing – ones who become news reporters, bloggers, singers, graduates, and see their wedding pictures….hey! That’s you!! If this medium didn’t exist, I would probably just remember you as that little girl who wrote “We are the World” and changed the words to fit me. And that is a sweet memory, but now I’ve gotten to “watch” you as a grown woman come into your own. You are no longer a “I wonder what ever happened to that little girl Kayla that I taught 1st – 3rd grade.” You are a grown woman. The chances of us hooking up so many years after that while I live in So Cal and you live in WA, would be pretty slim. I got to learn more about you and your family while you grieved the loss of your father so beautifully. The whole last months of your father’s life were like a documentary on FB between posts from you and your mom. It reminded me to pray, to stay somewhat connected and to add supportive words when I could.

    I’ve learned recipes, saw beautiful pictures of people’s adventures, wedding photos and baby pics of kids that I taught forever ago, seen “love notes” that I wrote to people that were saved over the years, saw pictures of me from 2nd grade birthday parties, class pictures, and other wonderful flashes of my life. I’ve also gotten to see holiday concerts at my former job, where I can see that my program is in the hands of a new, young, aspiring music teacher. I’ve gotten to watch my nieces in church plays through the beauty of live streaming. I, too, have been able to send out a message about live streaming of my own work with my children’s choirs, and my 80 year-old mother was able to stream a church service and watch her daughter conduct her choirs – from the comfort of her home, 3,000 miles away.

    I am thankful for moments where I can reach out to someone in need. For example, a girl from my church put out a status that said, “I am having a panic attack. I just need someone to talk to. Someone message me.” I was able to just send her a chat message while she lived in Texas that said, “Here……listening” and she was able to talk herself through her anxiety and was able to get through the attack. I am thankful for that moment when my dear friend who lives in New Mexico texted me at 10:45pm and said “I cannot stop thinking about the gun that is 5 feet from my bed.” She couldn’t bring herself to talk on the phone because she wouldn’t have been understood in her moment of distress. We texted for nearly 2 hours and I was able to help her through. Technology made that possible. This past weekend, a lady from my church sent out a group chat FB message to 12 women she called “prayer warriors.” Her son was just in a car accident and there were 2 others in the car. One passenger is in danger of losing her life. We have send messages of love, prayer and support back and forth. We have planned visits, phone time, and getting names on the prayer list. Others have said that their children have been in similar accidents and wanted to call and offer their support to her son, who is feeling horrible guilt. That is beautiful. It created a community of strong women who otherwise would not have been connected. I don’t know most of them.

    Now….I do admit to spending countless hours on social media when I could be out walking, going to a museum, exploring, etc… but I definitely live a full life – and for those who see me on Social Media, I think they see I live a very full life. I am just one of those people who can live a full life being active AND keep up with social media. I find those connections to people to be important. It might not seem real and authentic, but it so is for me. I can limit the amount of distraction if I really thought it was hurting me. I cannot consider the interactions with others to be a distraction. But I can only speak for my own life.

    I know about the horrible things that are said over the internet. I’ve learned about the divide in this country morally, politically, spiritually and in so many other ways. Here is one of the most important skills that I have learned from FB. It’s called “Hide” or “Block”. For someone like me who has a really hard time setting boundaries, this has been crucial. I have been able to say, “I am not going to allow this into my life.” I have considered my own health and say, “I don’t have to have this eat away at me for days upon days. Click on hide. Set a boundary for yourself.” It’s a baby step to being able to say that about my own life, a young girl…..an adult woman…who has been abused and is finally learning to stand up and say, “I don’t need this in my life.” Whew…..therapy gave me that….but technology made those baby steps move into bigger steps for my own life. Grateful.

    I love you, dear Kayla. I am so incredibly proud of you. You can still run next door and knock on the neighbor’s door and ask if you can play. I do. And I look at their pictures on FB, send them text messages and watch movies with them. It’s about balance and I know that that is what you are doing for yourself. Everyone’s balance is different. Everyone’s life experience is different. We all have our own journey. Keep writing and keeping people thinking. Much love – Jenny

  11. Your blog is totally right. I raised all five of my kids the way we used to raise kids: they run next-door to play with their friends they run down the street make contact instead of using a phone they played in the yard for hours with friends we had dinner together every day, we would go to grandmas house and have dinner with grandma. Now all those kids are on their phones , do they ever actually see each other see their grandma, call their grandma talk to her every once in a while. Not much. It’s a new world and it’s not like it used to be. So run over and see your sister or grandma and see how they are.

  12. I agree, distraction is everyhwere. I have even been known to become distracted from my distraction–how sad is that? I think like everything else the key to using technology responsibly is in moderation and setting limits. I’m doing the best I can to do those two things and help my children (you must say hello and interact with the adults at a family function BEFORE you retreat to another room to look at the handheld game or tablet) but it is certainly a daunting task when so many other adults put using technology first in their lives. Quit sending a Facebook message that you are having dinner and just have dinner and enjoy it! Now, um, I must return to loading the dishwasher which I was doing before I became distracted.

  13. I am currently working very hard to stop the distraction. I was so surprised to see something close to what I have been feeling lately. The worst part is that although I’m working hard to get rid of this issue it’s even more difficult when, as a blogger, its a necessary evil. I’m making great strides at interacting more in real like than just in social media but I’m now where where I need to be. Great post thanks for sharing!

  14. Remarkable things here. I’m very glad to see your article.
    Thanks a lot and I’m taking a look ahead to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

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