Waiting For Wackiness.

How Facebook and Instagram are stealing our peace and tranquility through distraction and weird dog pictures.

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Courtesy of Dreamstime

If you’ve got distractions in front of you, your mind goes nuts.” Simon Cowell

All of us think we want a peaceful life, but we don’t. We love being distracted. It’s one of the few things we do love, besides our families, and they’ve been distractions all along. If it weren’t for our kids, computer glitches and police sirens, we’d start a cult dedicated to white noise.

We don’t mind meditating, doing yoga, maybe going for a walk. What we do mind is long, uninterrupted silences. Even yoga instructors have the decency to talk while we’re scrunching ourselves into calming positions. Why are they calming? Because they’re cutting off our circulation. Drowning people also go through a state of calm. It’s called not having oxygen.

Distractions give us a sense of normalcy. We spend an average of five hours a day scrolling, doing screen grabs, commenting on dogs snuggling cats. There’s a fullness to being online, a sense of completeness.

An overactive bladder is the first sign of withdrawal. Any junkie will tell you that.

Think of the frustration we feel when the power goes out. We stare at our blank computer screens. We go to the washroom. An overactive bladder is the first sign of withdrawal. Any junkie will tell you that.

Fortunately, the power usually comes back on before we start doing puppet shows with oven mitts. This happens a lot after hurricanes. Survivors have been found in their kitchens doing Punch and Judy routines.

What’s the first thing we do when we get in a hotel room? We plug in our phones and laptops. Letting a battery run down is seriously stupid. Some people go to the movies. Two hours is usually all you need to recharge a battery. Most movies are two hours. That’s not a coincidence.

One night, a young man from the audience went up on stage just before the evening’s performance. He tried to plug his phone into the outlet. It was a fake outlet. Some patrons were outraged. The young man’s response?

“I had two gorgeous girls trying to call me,” he said.

It made the internet the same night. One million hits.

A few days later, he tweeted, “My parents are seriously pissed, but that theatre should thank me. I gave them a lot of publicity.” He obviously knows how the internet works. Stupidity sells more than product placement.

A woman went online showing pictures of herself with a bald head. She said she needed money for cancer treatments. Three million hits. Authorities checked into it. She didn’t have cancer. She got even more hits.

The reason we check social media each day is to confirm life’s unpredictable wackiness. When it’s not wacky, we’re seriously confused. Somehow this defies the natural order of things. We need the disenfranchised nuttiness that makes our world an interesting place.

Who can drive when steering wheels have more buttons than a sound studio? I see a day when instrument panels will have full church organs.

So much of what we do requires distractions. Cars are now outfitted with everything from televisions in the headrests, to plug-in UPS ports for downloading your music library. No wonder we’re moving to driverless cars. Who can drive when steering wheels have more buttons than a sound studio? I see a day when instrument panels will have full church organs.

With all this going on, no wonder yoga studios and meditation retreats are full. Even Don Draper on Mad Men went to a retreat. Okay, he was thinking of a Coke campaign the whole time, but at least he had his legs crossed. Some people go on retreats just to, oh God, relax.

Millions are spent each year finding calm and serenity. Some retreats have full-time medical masseuses. Others stick you in a bath of ground-up sea weed or run a pestle around a glass bowl.

You don’t see many selfies of this. Most retreats ask you to leave all electronic devices at the front desk. They also have signs saying: “No sex.”

People complain about leaving their devices, but few are worried about having no sex. Something’s wrong when sex takes a back seat to sea weed and someone running a pestle around a glass bowl.

If we believe Susan Weinschenk Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, many of us are losing up to 40% of our productivity through distractions.

When Tony La Russo said, “There are always distractions, if you let them,” are we letting distractions run our lives? Are we distracting rather applying ourselves? Does one necessarily rule out the other?

If we believe Susan Weinschenk Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, many of us are losing up to 40% of our productivity through distractions. Supposedly, this plays havoc with our brains.

According to Weinschenk, our prefrontal cortex was never designed for cerebral hopscotching we engage in every day. Our brains don’t have time to process. This is called “maladjusted preoccupation.” We remember the Chubby Chicken deal at A&W, but forget our keys on the roof of the car.

If we heap all the emails, phone messages, texts — and CNN — together we realize this is “cerebral avoidance.” We’re all guilty of distracting rather than applying ourselves. If we weren’t, we’d invent stuff. Less than one percent of the population invents anything. The rest of us buy other people’s inventions, figuring better them than us. It’s hard enough just buying stuff.

Since there’s little chance we’ll give up our phones or our internet, at least we can cut down on the clutter. This will allow us to concentrate on important distractions like the Chubby Chicken deal at A&W.

Guess what? Most dogs look like Spiro Agnew. Nixon only made him Vice President so he’d appeal to dog owners.

Here are a few suggestions in no particular order. I took them from books about reducing distractions, only I got distracted. The books weren’t very good, anyway. This will save you time and the cost of buying these books, freeing you up for other things like meditating or buying stuff.

It’s Still Just a Dog: First of all, stop going to Facebook every time someone sends you a notification. The last one said: “Did you see the dog? He reminds me of Spiro Agnew.” Guess what? Most dogs look like Spiro Agnew. Nixon only made him Vice President so he’d appeal to dog owners.

Grow a Pair: I mean a pair of ears. Learn to separate “noise” from “useful information.” Once you’re able to distinguish between the two, you’ll see a definite improvement in your cognitive reasoning. You’ll also discover that Golden Retrievers look like Bob Newhart. This is “deductive reasoning.”

Three Ball Limit: There’s no shame in admitting you can’t do six things at once. I can handle typing, but add a bunch of texts, or a dog that looks like Bob Newhart, and my productivity descends to the level of a hamster.

Get Out More: Stop thinking the internet shows all of life’s wackiness. Not everything ends on YouTube. Most purse snatchings don’t. Neither does most sex. If you turned off your computer, you’d notice these things.

Hopefully, these points will help you focus on what’s important, and not silly distractions. They’ve certainly benefitted me, at least I think they have. Anyway, I have to go now. I just saw Bob Newhart walk by. No, sorry, it was a Jack Russell. Boy, it looked like Bob Newhart.

Robert Cormack is a novelist, satirist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). For more details, go to Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Publishing.

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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