The Distraction Addiction

Spirituality & Health Magazine
reviewed by Kathryn Drury Wagner

Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul

By Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Little, Brown and Company

Do you know that you hold your breath when you check your email? Or that you spend four months of each year tootling around on the Internet? Take a look in our collective mirror, provided by the technology guru Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in his new book, The Distraction Addiction. A visiting scholar at Stanford and Oxford, Pang has spent two decades studying people’s interaction with our digital creations. The irony is, the tools that are supposed to give us greater mobility have shackled us. We’re not mastering the gadgets; they master us, as we urgently glance at our smartphones and feel compelled to update our Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles. These constant disruptions are incredibly counterproductive and inflate our sense of self-importance.

But Pang is no finger-waggling Luddite. He points out that people have been attached to technology for millennia—wheel, stone ax, sword, microscope. We even bury our dead with tools. We will always be enamored of technology, but Pang suggests that we be more deliberate about how we engage with it and practice what he calls contemplative computing.

He suggests spending a week observing how you use email and surf the Web, becoming mindful of how your life is enhanced or sabotaged by technology and then redesigning your relationship with it. You might take a digital Sabbath once a week, he says, or try an application that blocks access to the Web for a distraction-free computer environment. As you untangle yourself and regain control over your devices, you will also gain greater clarity and freedom.  

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