Pedley’s Ponderings

The electronic divide


     I’ll admit it: sometimes, I have an attention problem.

     It’s no medical issue that can be fixed by popping a pill or corrected by some other physician-approved method. No, it’s much simpler than that. If I could just put down my cell phone for five minutes, all my problems would be solved.

     It’s been an issue among of my generation since the advent of smart phones, and it’s become a growing trend with others after the devices became more accessible during the past five years. People are now attached to their phones no matter what daily activity they’re doing.

     It seems like I have to interrupt someone from their phone more often than should be necessary these days. It’s an annoyance, and quite frankly rude at times. Interacting with another human being is almost impossible without the interjection of some electronic device in one way or another.

     Such was the case for me when I grabbed dinner with two friends recently. After we settled into our seats and ordered drinks, we started talking about football and the hockey game we planned to attend that night. Nature called during the middle of our conversation, and upon my return from the bathroom I found both of my friends entirely consumed by their phones.

     I sat down, crossed my arms and protested in silence. Neither one noticed, and three minutes later both of my friends were still glued to whatever it was on their screens.

     This scenario is a common one, but I’d be a hypocrite if I said I was completely innocent of such bad habits. My electronic addiction began in college, and it’s been hard to shake since graduating and entering the real world.

     You were pretty much free to bring any electronic device you desired to class in college. Laptops and tablets were common, and each campus building was outfitted with lightening-fast wireless Internet. Not surprisingly, this electronic accessibility created the perfect storm for an easily distracted person like myself. Browsing social media and other websites proved to be a simple solution to escape from mind-numbingly boring lectures and discussions.

     It’s hard to imagine how much I missed by doing this. Halfway through my junior year I realized surfing the web wasn’t the most cost-effective use of my tuition dollars, and I also came to the disheartening reality that my miniscule classroom attention span probably wasn’t good for my GPA. Thus began my quest to halt my wayward habits.

     Common sense would tell you to leave the phone at home, but that step seemed much too drastic for me. I instead opted to completely delete my Facebook account to lessen my Internet options. It was my most frequently visited website, and it certainly provided me with the least stimulating content of all my favorite pages.

     My tactic worked for a while. Most of the incentive to check my phone was gone, and I generally enjoyed not knowing what other people were doing every hour of every day. However, my resolve began to gradually erode. Twitter eventually replaced the void left by Facebook, and I found other websites to waste my time with. I was back where I started by the time my senior year rolled around. The intoxication of graduating made it even harder to listen to a professor drone on and on about a topic I had learned four times already.

      Bad habits are hard to break, but I think mine are on their way out. It’s funny how strict deadlines and a paycheck that hinges on meeting those deadlines does that to you. I’ve also realized Twitter and the other websites I frequent can be as mind-numbing as some of my lectures in college. You can only read the same thing so many times

     Nonetheless, I’m only human. I have to leave my phone in the car whenever I cover meetings and other lengthy events. Those things can get long-winded, and resisting the urge to whip out my phone is too hard to overcome sometimes

     Afterall, you can’t get distracted if there’s nothing to distract you.

     Nick Pedley is the regional news editor for the Hampton Chronicle, The Sheffield Press and Pioneer Enterprise.