My Top Ten Digital Media Distractions

Two women texting in coffee shopCredit: Paulmlester Wikimedia Commons

Technology is wonderful... for the most part.  I could not live without my iPhone.  Well, that's a lie.  I could live, but it probably would not be as enjoyable and I would not be nearly as productive.  Or could I?  Are the loads of productivity apps actually making me less productive and more distracted?  Is my smartphone making me dumb?  What about my laptop?  Is instant access to multitudes of information actually more bad than good?

The Thinking LifeCredit: us.macmillan.comIn The Thinking Way: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction, the author claims that increased access to digital media tools like text-messaging and internet search engines is actually making us less productive and more stupid.  The ability to read is being replaced with the inclination to scan.  The power to retain information is being lost to the ability to retrieve information, much of it irrelevant.  The richness and satisfaction of human contact is being replaced with abbreviated text.  Lol.  wtf.

This made me examine my daily practices and how much of my time was being spent on distractions instead of being productive.  Initially I did not believe I was someone who was prone to distraction.  I don't play online games, and the only games on my phone are to occupy my five-year old when she is unusually unbearable.  However, upon further introspection, I did find myself spending more time than necessary on tasks and websites that I previously thought were either productive or minimally invasive.

Here then, are my top ten digital distractions:

1. Email

I check email many times an hour and receive instant notifications when new email arrives.  This goes counter to what most time management books and productivity gurus advise.  My phone is constantly buzzing when new Gmails come in.  And, I am instantly notified of any new work emails with Outlook pop-ups on my laptop.

This is my number one distraction.  I know it.  I admit it.  But I'm not willing to give it up.  Why?  For work, I pride myself on being ultra-responsive, and answering my emails in a quick and timely manner helps me stand out, I believe.  For personal communications, I just enjoy checking email... period.  It's an addiction, I know.  But, like my liberal use of caffeine, although it can be unhealthy, I still find the benefits outweigh the downsides.

2. Google

The search engine that changed everything.  Yes, this one is obvious.  Google is so efficient, so intuitive, and so predictive, it is nearly impossible not to use.  Sometimes, while I am typing in a search term, the predictive text reveals what I was really searching for!  It is difficult not to turn to Google every time a question pops up in my head.  This is great when the question is relevant and important.  This is a distraction when the question is something like, "What does FUBAR stand for?"

3. Google Apps

I am blanketing all other Google goodies into this one.  This includes: Google Earth, Calendar, News, SketchUp, Picasa, etc., etc., etc.  So many great tools.  Free.  Potentially powerful.  An equal potential to suck up your time in huge chunks.

4. Facebook

I used to scoff at "those" people wasting their time on Facebook.  I'm still not as bad as some people (I try to justify to myself), but I must admit I do check FB several times a day.  The mobile app on my phone has made it so easy to upload pictures or to check on status updates of friends.

I don't go so far as to spew my political or religious views, or complain about the woman who farted without remorse in the grocery store, but I can't resist uploading disgustingly adorable photos of my kids.  Self-indulgence?  Perhaps.  Waste of time?  To a large extent.  But I must admit, amidst all of the erroneous comments and fluff, I do enjoy staying connected with family and friends I would otherwise never see.

5.  My camera phone

The quality of cameras on smartphones has improved greatly, and in many cases (including mine) has replaced the need to carry a separate digital camera.  Camera apps like Instagram make adding cool effects and sharing photos very addicting.  

I find myself taking out my camera and snapping photos much more often than I used to.  In addition to taking dozens of photos of my kids in "burst" mode, I can't resist taking photos of every dish I partake of when eating out.  I even take natural landscape and scenery photos when I am outdoors.

I have never been a photography buff, but I find I am enjoying it more and more.  I probably have more photos on my hard drive than I can realistically sort through and appreciate.  But one day I will sort through them, tag them, organize them and create fabulous slideshows and picture books.  Well, maybe not.  Click!

6. Social news sites

I try to avoid social news sites like, but lately I have been less and less successful.  These sites link to articles and media based on user recommendations and rankings.  I never know what will pop up on the front page, and this makes it all the more appealing (and dangerous).


The big daddy of online retailers.  Once only a bookstore, now they carry virtually everything.  Their targeted deals, ease of payment and cheap shipping have made resistance to online shipping futile.  For me, the most effective part of Amazon's marketing is the "Customers of this product also purchased ___"   section of the website that comes up whenever I look at a product I am interested in.  It is simply evil I tell you!

Needless to say I have wasted many hours and dollars on this site.  And I will continue to do so.

8. Pinterest

Pinterest is my newest distraction.  I love online images, and Pinterest is extremely appealing in the way it presents and organizes images and the sites they originate from.  While browsing, an hour can disappear if I'm not careful.

Equally addicting is the ability to "pin" images while surfing the internet and add them one of my self-titled pinboards.  

9. Yelp

I am not yet an avid Yelp reviewer.  However, I do find myself searching for Yelp reviews whenever I am deciding on which restaurant to go to.  I've also used Yelp to help me choose a mover, auto repair shop, grocery store, fitness club and emergency room (seriously).  Although this can be considered productive, I have found myself going on a tangent and reading reviews of places I am not immediately intending to go to.


I am a movie buff.  Nowadays I don't have nearly as much time to watch movies, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in what's new and noteworthy in theaters.  The Internet Movie Database has long been an oft-visited site for me.  The user-voted movie rating system is the best I've found, and its database is second to none.  Where else can I find out the name of that gorgeous brunette with the British accent who starred in that werewolf movie... and all the other movies she's been in?


There you go, my top ten distractions of the digital age.  I am not proposing any solutions or lamenting over my wasteful habits.  This was a purely introspective exercise.  I should probably cut a few of these out of my life, or at least drastically reduce them.  But eh, I'm taking it one step at a time, and the first step in any addiction recovery program is to admit to the addiction.  The next step?  Hold on, let me Google it.