Did you know information overload has been documented as a phenomenon since the thirteenth century? What has changed in recent years is the pace—we are now receiving even more information each day than ever before. And, so, we are losing focus.
Attention spans have shortened, down to just 45 seconds. Visual media has changed to stay relevant so that the average camera angle for a TV show is held for 5–7 seconds. Think about that. A 22½-minute show (not counting commercials) will change the camera angle around 225 times!
During the month of March, I’d like to challenge you to take a honest look at the role this information overload plays in your day-to-day life. Is it taking your attention away from more important things? Can you give up technology to some extent to improve your own focus?
Here is another piece of information (are you feeling overloaded yet?): multitasking is a myth, as in, there is no such thing. I can hear all you multitaskers crying, “Balderdash! I do it all the time!” But the studies have proven it over and over again.
What is it we do when we “multitask”? What we do is rapidly switch between single tasks, and we do the tasks more poorly than if we focused on one for a length of time (singletasking). Singletasking is hard. We want to switch to the next thing. After staring at your computer screen for 45 seconds, you want to move on to something else.
One of the side effects of information overload is that we find it harder to focus. If your attention span is only a couple of minutes, it makes it hard to focus on a single task. There is a reason why companies block access to websites like Facebook.
But it also affects our personal relationships. Ever sit around with a group of friends and everybody is staring at their phone? There is actually a word for this now, it is called “phubbing.” Phubbing is the act or habit of snubbing someone in favor of a mobile phone.
This leads us back to the question of how much is too much? At what point are we too connected to the digital world? When does the digital supersede “irl” (in real life)? For me, the line is drawn when it starts affecting our relationships, such as when we are glued to our phones during dinner.
I understand, you have important emails to answer at 7 pm. And you really need to reply to that text you got six hours ago but then forgot about. Without that “lol,” Jimmy has no idea if you thought his story about confusing the powdered creamer for sugar is funny. Also, that revenge attack in Clash of Clans is not going to happen on its own. You must lead your virtual minions to victory.
Ok, I am being a bit facetious. Honestly though, should not our spouses and children come before all that? Chances are that you, the reader, are not engaged in a job that requires you to be on call 24/7. You do not need your phone no more than six inches from your hand. What you do need is some peace and quiet.
When I was approached about writing blog posts for Concordia Technology Solutions, I was asked to write about technology from a pastor’s perspective. Well, we are in Lent, which means one thing on my mind is giving something up. This article made perfect sense in my mind right now because I want to ask you give up technology (to some extent) by taking the Mantle/Shelf Challenge.
What is it? This challenge is very simple and probably one of the hardest things to do at the same time. What I want you to do is select a time during the day (for example: 6–9 p.m.), turn off* your phone, and put it on your fireplace mantle or a shelf in another room.
*For those of you who legitimately cannot turn off your phone because you are on call (e.g., doctor, police officer, pastor), turn the ringer on but leave the phone in another room. If possible, let people know that during a certain, defined time period, you should be contacted for emergencies only.
I am asking you to “give up” your phone for an hour or two a day and focus on your relationships, the people around you, the amazing experiences that are happening right in front of you and will never, ever, happen again because time only moves forward. Giving up technology to some extent will allow you to focus more on the people God has placed in your life and on your relationship with Him.
Do this for the rest of March, and, at the end of the month, see if your life is better for it.
Have you ever challenged yourself to give up technology? Tell us about it in the comments!
What role should technology play in ministry? Discover our view of finding the right balance in the free ebook Technology & Your Ministry.