I’ve started to write this post about 37 times now. I keep getting interrupted for various reasons…my friends and I refer to it as the “Something Shiny Syndrome” —something shiny passes by, and off I go. Too often it is of the technological variety. Text…email…a thought that sends me Googling to find something out…
It is true: I suffer from Techno Interruptus. And you know what? I have a LOT of company.
Sometimes it just borders on the ridiculous. Like many years ago, when one of my nieces was getting confirmed at her church. My sister, who needed to sit along with her at the front of the church, handed me her purse. “Here—hold this.” Simple enough words, but I had no idea the embarrassment I was in for. Right in the middle of the (very quiet) service, my sister’s phone rang some obnoxious ringtone. I quickly dug it out of her purse to silence it, but it didn’t respond to any of the methods I knew to stop it. All eyes were on me to shut that damn thing up. Eventually, something I did succeeded. The church breathed a collective sigh, and my trauma was over, right? Nope.
You see, they called back.
At that point, I simply got up, walked down the aisle while ringing all the way, found a cabinet in the lobby and shoved my sister’s entire purse into it and shut the door. I gathered my dignity and walked with head held high back to my seat. In silent prayer, I asked God if it was a greater sin to choke my sister IN church, or wait until we were no longer on “official” turf. She, of course, thought it was hySTERical.
I bet lots of us have been in meetings where there’s at least one person who thinks it is totally fine to let all of his audible notifications go off throughout the entire meeting. I mean, the phone isn’t ringing, right? So what’s a little chirp here or there? Sometimes I wonder if they just like people to hear how “phone popular” they are…because why else would that be okay? And the simple answer to silence phones doesn’t always do the trick, either. I have a coworker whose vibration setting makes a sound loud enough that you might as well have it as a choice for an audible sound. And I love when he leaves it on the table and he gets a call…We all just stare at it with our heads cocked like it’s some sort of scientific wonder. (In many meetings it is a welcomed diversion, I must admit.)
Beyond those obvious stories of cell phones causing distractions, there is a subtler form of Techno Interruptus (TI), though. Like when I have texted someone a question that I would like to have the answer to, and then I get into a face-to-face conversation with someone else. The text notification goes off, and…there are times I am guilty of wanting to know the answer right then. In my mind, I’ll be distracted from listening to the person who is right in front of me and think “remember to get that as soon as you can.” But even if I don’t, there is that moment when the other person I’m talking to hears the sound and must wonder “is she going to answer that or not?” I know when it happens to me, I typically defer to the person’s phone. I’ll say, “Go ahead and get that if you need to…” and then…I wait.
And that is kind of a lame feeling. And it’s really lame when the other person chooses to answer the text and then goes back and forth for a bit and finally tells you, “Oh, it was something stupid…” and then they tell you what the “stupid” was (which was indeed stupid), but now not only have you been interrupted for something stupid, but then they’ve taken more time to summarize the stupidity for you…And by the time it’s all done, whatever you were saying that got interrupted has packed its bags and headed for the beach.
It is a struggle to not let technological accessibility become the updated tyranny of the urgent. Accessibility can be awesome…but also detrimental. I love being connected. As someone who works a flex schedule, it is a necessity for me. But that doesn’t mean that because I can be interrupted, I should be interrupted. TI is bad for connecting with the people for whom you should be present in the moment. The easy, obvious answer? Simply power down.
Power what?! Yeah, I know. But disconnecting guarantees that no notification will cause a distraction. And, since I am not a brain surgeon, I’m pretty sure that any work fallout will not cause anyone any bodily harm.
Oh, mother of pearl. I just lost my train of thought because I got an incoming text. And it’s not coming back to me, either. Well, I guess whatever absolutely wonderful sentence or two that I was going to close this post with has now evaporated. Ironic, huh? Yeah, I thought so, too.