Column: Technology distracts from work, summer pleasures

Michigan weather has been absolutely beautiful this week.

It’s 75 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze pushing puffy white clouds across a vibrant blue sky. The sound of chirping birds is drifting through the open doors and windows of my house, and I have the perfect place to take it all in: the kitchen table, where I’m working on a homework assignment for my online History 1200 class. Thank you, Missouri Center for Distance and Independent Study.

Through the window I can see two kids riding bikes down the street, laughing as they pedal along, smelling the freedom in the sweet summer air.

All I can smell is pencil shavings and notebooks, and if I stare at my computer screen long enough my MacBook Pro begins to look like a brushed aluminum ball-and-chain.

After a few overdramatic sighs, I start reading and taking notes again, chipping away at my first lesson of 12 for the summer. Not too bad so far. After what seems like an hour, I reach the second paragraph.

Right when I feel like I can’t take much more, my phone buzzes against the table. I pick it up and open a text from my girlfriend, happy for the diversion.

Distracted by the text, I check to see if anyone else has read my blog today. Three more views — awesome.

I stand up and walk to the fridge, take a swig of yellow Vitamin Water, and sit back down.

I re-read the second paragraph, realizing that I just wasted my latest boost of energy on something I did a few minutes ago. Who knows when I’ll be so productive again?

This is pathetic. All I have to do is read 12 lessons, do six homework assignments and take three tests. I am completely alone in my house, and I can’t focus for the life of me.

I know it’s the summer, but there’s got to be a better explanation for my inability to focus. I’m not the only college kid who is half asleep in some community college class, or half asleep at the kitchen table, or fully asleep in bed, surrendering to a complete lack of will power.

If I could just get down to business, I could be outside riding a bike or chasing the ice cream truck that just passed my house, creeping out the 8-year-olds who are doing the same thing, because they, unlike me, are 8-year-olds.

Contemplating my pitiful predicament, I decide to check my Twitter feed — I lost a follower, great. Let’s scroll through my list and see if I can figure out who it is.

Oh wait, time to learn about the three plans for Reconstruction, and I’ve already wasted another 15 minutes.

I drink some more yellow Vitamin Water and read the label, inspired by the witty little claim that Carrie Underwood drinks this stuff to stay on her A-game while touring. Good enough for me.

I pull up my Blogger reading list and see a post from some productivity blog about distractions and productivity — how perfectly ironic and counterproductive. I read away.

In a much more articulate manner than this column, the writer claims that the constant barrage of emails, texts, Maneater columns and other technological stimuli greatly fatigues our minds and inhibits our ability to concentrate on one thing.

Such a problem has even pushed many college students to pop No-Doz and Adderall, the former available at Mizzou Market and the latter available from MU students.

I close the window and resume my work staring blankly at the screen. Productivity writer man was right — I’m trying to re-learn 10th grade history while listening to music, texting and opening a new tab every few minutes.

Time to take control of my life and do what I should’ve done an hour ago. I pause iTunes, turn off my phone, and close my other tabs. I shut my textbook, put away my notebook and walk back to the fridge.

I grab the remainder of my Vitamin Water, slip into my flip-flops and walk out the door.

I have all fall to worry about my intake of technological stimuli and its effect on my ability to focus and my study habits.

Right now I’m gonna go find that ice cream man.

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