Here’s a quick look at what the Wikipedia definition of what a ‘distraction’ is; “Distraction is the process of diverting the attention of an individual or group from a desired area of focus and thereby blocking or diminishing the reception of desired information”. Now that you’ve looked at another website’s definition, I hope you were distracted enough to not notice the doomsday device I just planted. Anyway, we’ve got a brand new Top 10 for you to check out! No doomsday device here.
When you think about it, Tamagotchi may have been one of the earliest examples of tech that intends to distract you. Now, it’s going straight in at number 10, as these little virtual creatures are nearly extinct now, but there is still a demand for them and so, I think we may as well at least raise them. Unlike other popular kids toys of the time, I.E the Furby, the Tamagotchi would so far as to die on you.
So Tamagotchi was a toy that could die and make you start again. Imagine if your Lego just died and you had to redo all of your work? So kids made extra sure to look after their Tamagotchi. Some even tried to use it as a way to tell their parents “look, I love this Tamagotchi, so a real pet would be great thank you very much.”
Of course, this was nothing but a way to distract kids from the parents actually getting the family a pet pooch. Arigatō Tamagotchi!
9) Subscription Content Autoplay Features
We debated this one. A big component of distractions is a “Call To Action” (CTA), an actual demand from the thing that’s distracting you to be distracted, like the incessant beeping of a tamagotchi starving to death. But generally speaking you don’t get much more than an email from your Netflix or Crunchyroll to say they’ve added something new for you to watch, and a bill that reminds you that you’re not using your Netflix or Crunchyroll.
What you get instead is a call to innaction, and you know which one I mean, the one that says “Next episode starting in…”. These services thrive on the binge watching format, encouraging you to stay sat and keep watching, never stray further from the screen than to the kettle and back so that you can watch more and more until you’ve exhausted the interesting parts of their library, and then leave the direct debit to run while you forget you even have the account.
8) Emailed Adverts/Spam/Clickbait
This is a weird one, but the purpose of spam and emailed adverts is to distract you long enough to make you click on them… And the research shows that it bloody works. Emailed adverts aren’t such a big problem; usually a user has to sign up to get those emails, but regulations changed to make it so people had to explicitly opt in for these (thank goodness). It’s said that billions of pieces of spam are sent out daily – and in 2008, apparently one in every 12 million or so got results… And that’s a lot better (or worse) than I expected.
Then, we can’t forget about those who have found a way to get you to click. You can be the most informed human on this planet, but still fall for some clickbait. This is done through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), titles that sound better than what the article gives. So from now on, I guess I should start naming these articles something like “You Do Not Want To Fall For These 10 Tech Distractions”.
No? Okay, we’ll stick to being honest.
A distraction insofar as they block off an entire sense, one that we highly underestimate in terms of the awareness of our general surroundings. Whether you’re listening to music, podcasts, audiobooks, or anything else, you’re still not listening to what is going on around you. People may be trying to get your attention, something may be approaching from the side or from behind.
That’s not to say that music or audiobooks are a bad thing, far from it, but when you’re in a public space there is a lot of sensory input, and you should always be aware of how much of that is auditory. Your ears helped you to survive when things were sneaking up behind you, and increasingly these days, you may need them to do so again.
6) YouTube/Content Sharing Platforms
I’m watching YouTube right now…
What? Oh yeah! So, by the time you’ve filled your list of subscriptions with sketch comedy, let’s players, news, reviews, vloggers (do people still vlog?), cute girls with ukuleles, cartoons that condense enormous physics concepts into 5 minute summaries, and adorable parrots, you’re suddenly bombarded with notifications to tell you about the latest content. And you can’t turn off those notifications, because the creators ask you nicely not to at the end of every video.
I’m picking on YouTube as the biggest content sharing platform, and the best catalogue of feline behaviour in existence, but we also have the likes of DeviantArt, imgur, there’s still Newgrounds (still there folks) and the low-key titan of the industry, Reddit, the spawning pit of memes and socially acceptable version of 4chan. You have a wide choice of websites on which to waste your entire day instead of getting work done.
5) Roadside Billboards
While they’re not as dangerous as driving inebriated or while using your phone, it is a fact that billboards are out to grab our attention when it should be fully on the road, and technology is helping them to do it better than ever. From simple posters that need to be read and consumed quickly, to ever-changing panels, and now with a growing number of billboard screens, advertising may not be merely insidious, but outright dangerous.
While it’s hard to definitively prove a direct causal link there are studies that strongly suggest that billboards have contributed to accidents on the road. Our brains are attracted to movement and light, essential instincts that aid survival that advertisers have used for years to pull our eyes. But when moving at 60+ mph a glimpse is enough to cause problems.
4) Mobile Gaming
Mobile gaming is a huge distraction these days. I recently wrote a review for a new Gacha game called RAID: Shadow Legends, which, in all honesty, is great fun. However, I’m not going to lie to you – I find it one of the most distracting things right now. Occasionally, I want to get away from whatever I’m doing – I’ll boot the game up and there are about a billion* CTAs on it. Of course, RAID isn’t alone in this.
Pokemon Go has been a constant distraction, as Niantic have cleverly found a way to throw events into the mix. These events are enough to keep you going back – and mobile games of all kinds do similar events to keep you going back. There’s nothing wrong with being distracted if you enjoy the distraction, but let’s not call it anything other than a distraction.
*Okay, I may be exaggerating, but there are definitely a lot of things to do. Speaking of which, be right back, need to level up a common hero to 10…
King of entertainment for a century, television may be slowly being dethroned by the internet, but that doesn’t stop it from trying to hold our attention, and it’s had decades of practice. How many of us have lingered longer than we intended to in the living room because the TV was on, and how often have we done that despite the fact that the channel that’s on is dull as all hell?
While the bigger TV productions might be moving rapidly online where the audience has started to move, TV is still on the throne for family “entertainment”. It’s growing ever more flooded with political bias and desperate bids to sell us products, and every example of entertainment for the lowest common denominator (that’s not on YouTube, let’s be fair here), but it’s all working! Every home has one, many have two or more, and they decorate our streets and shop windows, we cannot turn our heads without seeing a TV, and we have a habit of lingering overlong when we see them.
2) Social Media
Right, let me crack my knuckles for this one…
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram – What is the one thing all of these Social Media platforms have in common? They claim to connect you. Yes, you too LinkedIn, I’m throwing this at you too. Whilst all of these platforms have seriously good uses and I am not taking that away from them, they are also really distracting. They’re designed to keep you social on their own terms, rather than letting you and your friends socialise in your normal ways.
For instance, Facebook introduced stories. These are pushed separately to other status updates, as these come up as a notification. These then make you go to look and see your friend tell you about how they didn’t know a recipe and wanted their friends to tell them, instead of just Googling or reading a book for a recipe. Ahem.
Anyway, the fact of the matter is, you aren’t being typically social with social media. You’re being coerced into socialising their way. After all, you’re not a good friend unless you’ve put a heart on every single one of your friends cat pictures.
1) Smart Devices App Notifications
You know a lot of the previous entries on this list are only possible because of this one. I’m sure you saw it coming, but if you didn’t, this is by far the most disruptive and distracting bit of tech imaginable. Ignore beeps and boops, ignore alarms and adverts. Hey, turn that TV off for a while and let’s logout of our social media accounts. Oh hey, my phone is telling me that the weather is nice outside, thanks phone.
Wait, why is my phone telling me this? Why do I have 99+ unread notifications?
Everything is a notification in the world of smart devices. I started by only listing phones, but as I sit here, my wrist just vibrated. Thanks Fitbit, I now have a notification telling me there’s a notification on my phone. That’s meta.
And it’s not going to go away anytime soon… Notifications are here, they’re incredibly useful, but they are also the most imposing CTA on this list.
Not all distractions are a bad thing though; sometimes we will go out of our way to get distracted. Thankfully, technology knew you’d be crawling away from whatever responsibilities you have, that they made some more distractions. Consider yourself lucky then, as ultimately these distractions probably felt like they were worth your time.
A bit of an amalgamation and not really a good example of a distraction, but one that we get distracted by. Unlike everything else on this list, casual gaming, including the classics Solitaire and Minesweeper, is designed to give you something to distract yourself with. Before tech took over, I’m sure people did similar things with random toys; say a Rubik’s Cube, or perhaps their walkman – Something to find more interesting than what they need to do.
When Microsoft bundled these games with Windows, you knew you had something you could fall back on. Assignment due in? Best play Solitaire. New work project deadline? Better do some Minesweeping… And they weren’t the only games that came along. Casual games took off big time; from your Plants vs Zombies, to your 3D Pinball, these games were designed to make you take your mind off things.
Starting with the standard desk toys like newton’s cradles, advancing to the rubix cube and ball-bearing mazes, and onwards to fidget spinners and the wide variety of gadgets designed to tame twitchy fingers. As someone who does get a bit fidgety without a keyboard in front of them and is easily distracted by repetitive and hypnotic motions, I appreciate the appeal, I really do.
But here’s one of those moments where collegehumor has a fair point. All of these devices that are supposed to keep the mind clear and happy have a tendency to make us even more distracted than we would have been without them, and probably just as bored. Certainly you’re not getting work done when your fiddling with those pointless buttons or learning how to solve the rubix cube that’s been in your desk draw for thirty years.
Phew, I’ve covered up that doomsday device — Oh hey there reader, nice to see you had a good time looking through our list. What? No, no, there’s no doomsday device, stop talking about that. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the tech distractions we distracted you- I mean educated you about. Oh hey, we have one more thing for you to do, see those buttons below? Choose one, it’ll help us vote for next week’s cover up– Article! I meant article…
There, that wasn’t so bad was it? Hopefully you’ve been fully distracted by the pretty images, wordy sentences and the end of article choice. If you haven’t, then next time, we’ll try harder to distract you – But what did you make of this week’s distractions? Are these the items you’d have put in here? Did we get the order right? Drop us a notification by leaving us a message in the comments below, or share it across social media, because you know it makes sense.