Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mindless Distractions

This is a subject I think a lot about lately; how much of a distraction the TV and computer can be in my life.  It really bothers me that as soon as my son is in bed, all I want to do is plop on the couch and turn on the television.  It doesn't really sound that bad on the surface; I mean there's nothing wrong with wanting to unwind at the end of the day.  But what bothers me about it is that it feels like an addiction sometimes, which is something that is always a red flag for me.  In the morning when I get up, I usually feel the need to switch on my computer right away, as if I can't get on with my day unless I check my email first thing.  Then during the day, I find myself checking my email a whole lot.  And when I'm done, I can easily spend hours surfing the web, satisfying every impulse of curiousity immediately.  Something about that just doesn't sit well with me.

I recently saw a documentary on PBS called Digital Nation: Life on the Frontier, which really got me to thinking.  The program focused on video games and the internet and how they actually dumb us down when we spend too much time with them.  Scientific studies were done, including brain scans that showed that people who read more, versus being on the internet, have stronger brains.  They said that many college students of today have a hard time concentrating on one idea for very long, making it difficult for them to write a cohesive paper.  The example was that they will write a paragraph, then get on Facebook.  Then write another paragraph and check their email.  After writing the next one, they might look up something they're curious about, not related to their paper.   What they have after this kind of writing is a page of paragraphs with disconnected ideas and a paper that doesn't flow.  I remember when I was in high school, before my family had a computer, I wrote a 10-page paper by hand, then when I was done, I used the computer at school to type it out.  I took breaks, of course, but there was no checking my email every five minutes.  I was able to stay focused and get my thoughts out in an intelligent manner.  I think it's a sad thing when a college student can't that. 

One alarming comment a student made on the show was that he just doesn't read books.  Instead, he reads the cliff notes in five minutes.  This is so disturbing to me because of how much young people are missing out on what used to be a joy in life.  There is no way you can get the essence of Shakespeare out of reading abbreviated notes for just a few minutes.  This is so disturbing to me.

They said on the program that the internet is all about distraction, and that that's not necessarily a good thing.  As I said before, it weakens our ability to think intellegently and focus.  As a mother, this concerns me because I feel it's my job to be focused on my family and to be an example to my children.  It's my desire that my children grow up appreciate reading books, that they enjoy and look forward to sitting down in a quiet room and devote hours to reading, while their minds work at imagining the scenes in the story.  My children will do what they see me doing, and if that's relying on electronic media to entertain me, and at the same time decrease my intelligence, that's the pattern they'll follow.  Television wasn't mentioned on the show, but I assume it has similar affects.

Growing up, I read books a lot.  I remember being excited every time my mother took my brother and sister and me to the library, as if something special was waiting for me there.  What adventure would I find today?  I remember devouring books like Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass in two or three days, at only 9 or 10 years old.  At the time, I didn't realize how I was building my vocabulary and developing my imagination, or how that was strengthening my mind.  It wasn't a distraction to me; something just to keep me from thinking about what I should be thinking about.  Instead, it was something I was intently focused on, and something I was learning a great deal from. 

So now I have a goal.  That goal is to cut down on how much time I spend on the computer.  How much, I'm not sure yet.  Maybe I need to first keep track of how much I do spend on it during a typical day, then decrease it from there.  I'm not sure yet.  But I do know that I will make an effort to read more during the day, so that my son will see that example and hopefully want to follow it.  I'm also going to try doing something besides watching TV every night, like delving into the myriad of books I want to read.  I talked to my husband last night and we're going to consider canceling our cable when our contract is up later this year.  I've recently taken up sewing and crocheting again, which I think are much more constructive and intelligent activities to spend my time on.

This post, which has gotten really long, is not meant to point the finger or judge anyone's lifestyle.  I know families (mine was one of them) who keep the TV on most of the day, if not all day long.  It doesn't necessarily mean that they're kids will grow up dumb.  I just think cutting back on distracting media is worth considering, especially if it bothers you like it does me.

I hope I have got you to thinking.  Please let me know your thoughts, experiences, and possible goals related to this subject.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I have been feeling the same way lately. All of these "modern conveniences" are quite overwhelming and to me, actually create stress instead of relieve it. It all feels a bit too chaotic to me and I feel so much better when I really limit my TV (which I hardly watch anymore) and my internet time. Do you realize it had been more than I year since I actually got to go to the library and let the kids check out books and get a little something for myself? How horrible is that! Is was mostly because I was a little scared of taking all three kids by myself, but I thought to myself that I better get over it! They NEED to go to the library and I do too! We have been enjoying our new books!!
    I, too, have begun crocheting again and I am amazed at the calm and peace I experience when creating something by hand. I sit quietly in bed before reading at night and crochet until my eyes cross! Then I read until I realize I've just read the same sentence countless times with still no comprehension of what I just read. But you are right...I need to read more in front of the kids. Of course we read together everyday, but I think it would be very beneficial for them to see me reading for fun and enjoyment.