The French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, had the following to say about distraction:
"When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men…I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber."
Interestingly, there is contemporary empirical evidence that Pascal was right. A case can be made that distraction decreases happiness. A study conducted at Harvard University revealed that when people were engaged in some activity, such as reading or shopping, they tended to be happier if they were focused on the activity itself. When they were thinking about something else, they were less happy. In fact, whether and where their minds wandered was a better predictor of happiness than what there were actually doing at that moment.
In our age of multitasking, always-open email programs at work, social media, and smartphones, we are constantly connected to others. Perhaps these near-constant distractions are undermining our happiness. What can we do about this?
There are several suggestions to consider which will help limit the distractions that are undermining our happiness. Most of them are pretty easy to imagine, but perhaps much more difficult for us to actually do.
I think digital technology and digital media bring us many benefits. However, we must be intentional about keeping them in their proper place in our lives. Technology makes a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.
I'm on Twitter, if you are looking for a distraction!