Down the long hallway to the lines of hundreds of other tourists waiting to have their passports stamped. No coverage. Hmmm.
Down to the basement to collect our luggage, out the door to the parking lot, to a taxi and along 80 km of ruggedly beautiful coastline. Still. No. Coverage. Anywhere. Ever. ACK!
Surely when we get to our hotel....? Nope.
After reaching for my phone repeatedly and finding ZERO bars there, I began to see that my addiction was stronger and deeper than I'd imagined. What? Not being able to call my kids, at will? Or worse, not being able to be called by them, at will? Unthinkable! What about all those emails that kept me company by their constant buzz-then-chime? None.
Of course there was a land line at the hotel, which only holds 48 guests at full capacity. Grandmother and Granddaddy had that number in case of emergency, and we would be quite easy to find, lounging on the balcony of our bungalow. But what if...? I sensed a moment of panic.
When we could not get internet connection the first couple of days, I felt even more cut off. Could we make it? Gasp!
After a couple of days of going off cell phone "cold turkey" (not to mention having a room with no clock, no TV, and no land line), I began to enjoy my new freedom (and here I thought having all those things governing my life was what gave me so much freedom!). Most of the time we didn't know what time it was. We read books and magazines - cover to cover (ask me the last time I did that?). I journaled. We went to bed when we were tired and got up when we were rested (and still took afternoon naps). We ate when we were hungry (and then we ate some more). We talked.
I started to unwind. I began to rest.
By our last day there, I knew it was time to get back to reality. I couldn't take with me the ocean breezes, the exotically brilliant flowers or the unusual birds. But how could I bring some of this - this unhurriedness - back with me?
Wouldn't you know, at the airport on the way home, I picked up the February 16 edition of Newsweek. It had an interesting article about The BlackBerry's Many Distractions. (And while the author blasts BlackBerry, I'd say iPhone ranks right up there on the Evil Distraction Quotient.) Here's the gist:
The cognitive and social effects of the BlackBerry on its 21 million users aren't so unambiguously beneficial. So while legions of BlackBerry fans cheer Obama's success in keeping his, insisting it makes users more productive and connected, experts in cognitive psychology and in human-machine interactions who study pop-ups, e-mail alerts, calendar reminders and instant messaging—the most intrusive and ubiquitous pre-BlackBerry technologies—have two things to say: distraction overload, and continuous partial attention.I've had a BlackBerry for years, only because I inherited the first one from my husband when he got a new one for work. I do not have internet on it (I refuse!) but I absolutely LOVE having all my contacts and my calendar with me at all times (no more notes written on scraps of paper to be copied to the family calendar or having to wait to reply to emails if I'm stuck in a carpool line). But at what cost?
For whatever the virtues of a handheld, there is no question that, depending how you use it, you risk never focusing exclusively on any thought or perception for long and never being able to work straight through to completion on anything.
People take about 15 minutes to productively resume a challenging task when they are interrupted even by something as innocuous as an e-mail alert, scientists at Microsoft Research and the University of Illinois found in a 2007 study.Okay, so let's bring this to the reality of home. We are already interrupted 500 times a day by bad diapers, items being accidentally flushed down the toilet or broken by well-meaning small hands, by spats over whose turn it is, by phone calls, people at the door, dogs barking, and the dryer buzzing. Add to that a few email alerts, instant messages, text messages and calendar reminders. Um, at fifteen minutes' "recoup" time per interruption, that adds up to an entire day saying, "Now where was I?"
And about continuous partial attention:
Continuous partial attention is actually a misnomer. Computer scientists use it, but most psychologists disdain it because what seems like partial attention or multitasking is actually rapid-fire switching of attention among tasks. In that state of mind, says computer scientist Mary Czerwinski of Microsoft Research, you don't process information as fully and are not using your frontal lobe effectively.There is nothing that bugs me more than to see kids (my own included) playing games on their phones when they are bored. What ever happened to daydreaming, which "is a propitious mental state for creativity, insight and problem solving. Truly novel solutions and ideas emerge when the brain brings together unrelated facts and thoughts."
Sigh. I did a lot of daydreaming in Jamaica. Watching clouds. Listening to the waves. Wondering what kind of flower that was. I did not find any "truly novel solutions" to anything, but it still felt so good!
It seems like an uphill battle, this tide of constant interruption in the perpetual state of partial attention. Cell phones, email, and social media, including blogs such as this one, it seems, are here to stay. Can we keep them all at bay, especially that entourage of infernally annoying minutia included in 99% of Facebook status or Twitter updates (You really don't want to get me started on that one! Do we really care that someone just defrosted their freezer? I think not.)? Can we teach our kids how to take the good and leave behind the bad, so that maybe they will have a longer attention span than those in one study of IT workers who worked only 11 minutes before being interrupted?
Hmmm. Lots of food for thought. I will say that after I read the entire article, I turned off all email and message alerts on my phone and computer (My kids' texts DO still buzz me, I can still see that red light blinking, though!). I couldn't quite part with the calendar alerts yet, either, but maybe some day.
It's a baby step, but if it brings me a few moments of daydreaming, I think it will be worth it.
PS - I still need Lisa P. in California to email me so I can get that fabulous prize to her!!