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July 18, 2014

Distracted from Reading and the Culprit is….MY SMARTPHONE!

Posted by carol

As frequent readers may recall a few months ago I got a new phone after years with what I called a “dumb phone,” which was only good for calls and texts, and a Blackberry that I only used for email as it was an older model and too slow to do much else. For the first couple of weeks I was frustrated as I was on a  learning curve with my smartphone, but soon I was tapping away on my Samsung Galaxy S5 with ease. I did not even miss the Blackberrry keyboard that I had coveted so much.

I had held out for this phone as it was touted as cutting edge and had the camera features I wanted (I always carried a camera), among others. It also had a larger screen than the iPhone, which was something else I loved. Now I was carrying one device instead of three!

I noticed something else. Now my phone is always with me whereas before I would be trying to find either of the other two devices with regularity. Instead now I am tethered. I check weather, look up recipes, read lots of articles, take and post photos, update Facebook and read email alerts and the news. I look up recipes ingredients in the store or have my tapped out notes of what I need to buy on hand.

But there are drawbacks. Mainly the distraction of it.

The other morning I had my notifications signal on and was awakened at 5AM to learn of something happening at some farflung part of the world that I did not need to know at 5AM. I now often turn it off at night. Recent storms had a Flash Flood warning going off more than once with the intensity of an air raid siren. Since many of us in the office have smartphones this alert went off across the office like we were being invaded.

But it’s also making it way too hard to just relax. Last weekend I was outside reading a book and I saw the dreaded Japanese beetles flying near the roses that they have all but annihilated. What ensued? Internet searches for how to kill them, how long their season was, how to keep them from coming back and their mating cycle (the latter as it meant we could try to eliminated them for next year).

I went back to reading my book, but as I did out of the corner of my eye I saw the chair at the patio table that had torn and started a search to replace it. The same chair was not available, so instead I started a jolly hunt around the Internet to find a replacement and then started looking at other complete sets of chairs and matching cushions and from there tried to determine which shade of blue I liked best and which grade of fabric I wanted.

A friend is selling her house and with it much of her furniture and other items. I have learned that china and crystal do not sell and thus my mind then traveled to pull up my phone to look online for replacements for the broken crystal and chipped pieces in my set that I am missing; the china and crystal I use about 6-8 times a year.

Then I moved onto looking for an armoire I have been thinking about getting, a new sink  for the "man cave" and a sink for another bathroom.

NONE of this was relaxing. My mind was racing and the normal relax time of reading had been usurped by endless searching and looking. I may be more informed about a lot of things --- I have read some excellent articles beyond my frantic shopping ---  but I also crave the downtime of before.

I know that the obvious thing to do was to leave the phone somewhere else, but alas, what if the boys or Tom texted or called? The tasks I had been able to handle with ease on my “dumb phone.”

I turned off all notifications except the ringtone, placed the phone under a pillow on the outdoor couch, picked up my book and read. And finally felt at peace as I wrapped myself up in the story. And hours later I felt like I had spent an afternoon at a spa.

Book sales are off and everyone is talking about it. People are asking why. I am looking at my phone and I think it holds part of the answer.

There is more danger of distraction ahead. I hear the iPhone 6 will have an even bigger screen! Book reading is migrating from tablets to phones, but I am not sure the distractions will abate enough to ensure that we get back to what reading a book often is....relaxing!

Have a comment about this? Drop me a note at [email protected].