Snapshots from Eldredge

The life and writings of TJ Alexian

Distractify

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Last night I finished Amy Poehler’s book “Yes Please,” and I was especially amused by the final chapter in the book, entitled “The Robots will kill us all,” where she basically concludes that “this internet thing has been a disaster.”

I know exactly what she’s talking about.

Her point was that she used to be the sort of person who swore she would never have a cell phone, but now it’s by her side constantly and a perpetual distraction. She discussed how she couldn’t get through even writing the first paragraph of the chapter without being distracted by 5,000 different things.

I think everyone can relate, and I’m not sure it’s made the world a better place. Just writing those three paragraphs I had the exact same experience. I have one guy on a social app that keeps pinging me every five seconds. My Facebook is popping up with this or that. I have 11 unread emails in my personal account (most of that probably crap) and while it used to be that I would keep my in-box properly maintained, I have stuff I haven’t read that I probably should have that stretches back months. There’s just too much content. Too much. I don’t care any more.

And in addition to being distracting, I’m here to tell you, the user interface experience is just awful. I literally hate my iPhone. I wish I could have anything…anything! besides it. A few weeks ago I made the purchase of my song in 1776 so I could sing it in the shower. Although iTunes says it was downloaded, it’s nowhere to be found in my Music folder. If I try playing the song on YouTube, it usually stops playing one minute into the song and I have to turn the shower off and try to get it going again. Which it will do, for twenty more seconds. I only wanted to play one song in my shower. A CD would have been way more dependable.

Last night, Corb and Theo and I wanted to watch an episode of Once Upon a Time. We have Chromecast. Corb purchased the show through Amazon. We tried to play it (we’ve done it successfully in the past). One hour later, owing to a variety of glitches, we were still unable to view it. Connection problems. Must upgrade to Amazon Prime. Must download new app. Looks like Chromecast isn’t interfacing with Amazon well. Or maybe it’s Comcast? A DVD would have been far easier.

And God forbid you need service! Having to deal with places like AT&T or Apple is absolute torture. Either you stay on the phone for hours at a time, go online for iffy service, or travel out of your way to a store, where they are by design understaffed and constantly trying to upsell you stuff. So you wait for hours. All they care about is selling. The service is incidental.

For the past few weeks my son has been having trouble with his iPhone. He’s having trouble getting it to charge. I kind of put off dealing with it, because I knew it was going to be torture having it taken care of, but finally I took him to AT&T at the local mall to take a look at it. It’s apparently the regional headquarters. There were two guys in the store equipped to handle everyone who came in. Just two! Fortunately, we only had to wait for about fifteen minutes to be looked. The guy was nice enough, and looked at the phone, and said, “Yep, there’s a problem with the way this is charging. You definitely need to get this fixed. You’ve had it for less than a year so Apple should replace it. All you need to do is go to your Apple store and they should replace it.”

Only go? The closest Apple store (no I won’t buy your stinking AppleWatch) is in Providence. Never mind that I pay AT&T $400 a month and they are pushing me off to someone else without a warm transfer or anything. And fortunately, I had the sense to call to see if I could get in that night. When I called, rather than they trying to talk to me, they tried to push me to a web site for an appointment. Okay, fine. I let them push a link to my phone. But of course, what I was calling about was not an option, because rather than simply give me the option to make an appointment, they tried to figure out why I wanted an appointment in the first place. The closest I could get to identifying the problem was “hardware problem.” But when I selected that option, they tried to run a diagnostic rather than letting me schedule a simple appointment.

Frustrated, I called back. Just kept hitting zero this time. Totally bypassed the frustrating computer voice. Finally, I got a human. The minute she found out what I wanted (after trying to upsell me an Apple watch) she had no real interest in helping out. It didn’t involve a sale, you see. “Well, you can come tonight, but we probably won’t be able to help you out between store hours.” It was six o’clock.

“When can I schedule an appointment?” I asked.

“Friday night?” It was a Tuesday. “Or, you could just come in during the day, and wait. Not at night, though.” Oh, so I have to take time out of work for this. How helpful.

Theo couldn’t do Friday night. I scheduled an appointment for Monday. I am sure it will be absolute torture. There is no way in hell I will be buying an Apple Watch, no matter how much they try to push it on me. I am so dreading this.

My point being, I’m just not sure we’re in a better place than we were even ten years ago. Social technology has not made life better, it’s made life more distracted, less convenient, more isolated, and keeps people from really focusing on living life.

Corb and I keep saying we are going to just set aside our phones for a set period of time. Try to live distraction free. Try not to respond to the beeps and the whirrs and the alerts. Will it help restore our sanity? We’ve only tried it for a few hours on a week-end now and then, but I think we are ready to take the big plunge: go phone free for a whole day. Maybe a whole week-end!

It’s time for a change. I am tired of perpetual distraction and having an app for everything. It’s not helping any more. I’m not sure it ever really did. Amy Poehler is right: the Robots will kill us all.

Author: TJ Alexian

T.J. Alexian lives in Attleboro, Massachusetts in a renovated green Victorian, along with seven ghosts and his long-time (and long-suffering) partner. He also has three kids and one spiritual kid, and their stories and their spirit form the heart and soul of his novel, Pictures of You. A profiled author in the Writer's Digest book Writer with a Day Job and an award-winning communications specialist, Pictures of You is Alexian's first novel, although he has two more being prepared for distribution: The Late Night Show and Confessions of a Diva Rotundo. Pictures of You is a young adult thriller that combines Alexian's love for social media with the macabre. A ghost story for the dispossessed, the novel tells the story of a young girl haunted by events in her past that never seem to die. But more than that, the novel is about being heard, about giving voice to voices that don't fit the norm. Some that lack the courage...and some, that hide in the shadows.

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