The race to win our attention: fight back by Suf Alkhaldi


As our life becomes faster due to the development of many technologies that compete to attract our attention even for milliseconds, our ability to function with less distraction decreases.  E-mails, cell phones, TV, and daily life keep distracting us from relaxing. The race of Social networks like Facebook, Google+, and twitter to win our attention becomes better and better.
As much as these technologies induce stimulation and connect us together, they stress us and degrade our well-being, making us exhausted if we don’t practice self-control. An excessive use of these technologies produces chronic stress, and our ability to focus on our deep work decreases. Today’s cell phones provide college students with calls, texts, E-mail, video conferences, microblogging, interactions on social-networks, surfing the internet, and sharing videos and pictures.   Wow, what did we do 15 years ago with this time, I ask myself all the time?

The problem of distraction 

All of these activities are available within reach of the new college students–it is a challenging time for all of you guys if you are a student.  The influence of the smartphone on the behavior of college students is tremendous. College students use smartphones 10.5 hours per week (P. Auter 2007), creating a negative impact on their  physical fitness ( Lepp et. al. 2013).  I am really  astounded when I go to the gym by the number of people who are looking at their smartphones instead of exercising.  Everyone worries to miss out on something – a very common phenomenon in our current life! I once attended the Cavalia show Odysseo.  The show featured live horses galloping across the stage and acrobatic dancing. When the show started, a young woman sitting in front us never stopped looking at her smartphone for an hour and a half. I felt sad to see this young woman not enjoying the show (not to mention the distraction to others her behavior caused) because of her constant need to look at her smartphone.  In a study ¹ conducted on the relationship between smartphone use, academic performance, anxiety, and satisfaction with life in college students, the study found smartphone use decreased the GPA of college students and increased the anxiety level by lowering the level of life satisfaction.  These college students could not keep up with the demand and the distractions of social apps loaded on their smartphones.  The students’ attention spans decreased dramatically, affecting their ability to study and, as a result and sadly, decreasing the enjoyment of life. In fact, we have a lot of Apps which can block E-mails and internet  access to allow us to focus on our tasks.

Fight back

Numerous blogs, apps, social studies have started to highlight the problem.  We need to fight back.  There is no choice!!  we need to scale down the stimulation and control our impulses.  Intentional relaxation using meditation is gaining popularity now. Two years ago, I decided to learn meditation.  I learned Transcendental Meditation, and I have been really happy with the new tool.  As I started a new job, the amount of daily fear I had increased and was overwhelming.  Twice a day, I would close my office door and meditate for several minutes.  The amount of relaxation induced by the meditation was powerful and beautiful. I felt as if I had taken a power nap.  The meditation filled me with energy and prepared me to move on with my day with less pain. The journey of relaxation started the minute I closed my eyes and listened to my breathing. I moved to another world of controlling my thoughts and fear, taming down the fire fed by stress  and continuous demand to produce and meet our work expectations.

A new movement to fight back and take control of our thoughts and decrease the overwhelming stimulation of our environment is now introducing relaxation techniques and meditation in many places. Creating quiet zones is a new trend that has started to pop up in trains, offices, software companies, and even worship areas.  Google and many software companies teach their employees to relax by providing them free meditation classes. Many universities have incorporated structural design and landscape of their campuses to accommodate the new trends.  These new trends will expand as we seek ways to not be overwhelmed by technology.

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