3.21.2006

Digital distractions

Newsweek's Stephen Levy writes this week about a new "syndrome" called CPA -- continuous partial attention. CPA is diagnosed when we have so many digital channels open at once -- cell, IM, email, web feeds, etc. -- that we don't actually pay full attention to any of them. Multiple feeds allow us to track new information and collaborate, though we often get hung up trying to be a "live" node all the time. But there's a downside:
But there's a problem in the workplace when the interruptions intrude on tasks that require real concentration or quiet reflection. And there's an even bigger problem when our bubble of connectedness stretches to ensnare us no matter where we are. A live BlackBerry or even a switched-on mobile phone is an admission that your commitment to your current activity is as fickle as Renée Zellweger's wedding vows. Your world turns into a never-ending cocktail party where you're always looking over your virtual shoulder for a better conversation partner. The anxiety is contagious: anyone who winds up talking to a person infected with CPA feels like he or she is accepting an Oscar, and at any moment the music might stop the speech.
A time to blog, a time to think; a time to get mail, a time to pray... There's plenty of clutter out there, and more and more of it gets past our tech filters every day. How to stay plugged in and yet close the virtual door when necessary? We need to be accessible, reachable, and speak the language of the digital denizens...and yet offer an antidote to the constant distraction that diminshes our personal relationships. A tall order. How do we achieve this balance?

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