No doubt it would be fun to get a random text once in a while about the latest Bear’s trade. But when one random text leads to twenty, and emails on my mobile device are too long or simply forgotten, never to be returned, I think my response rate would start looking like that of the grocery surveys that I receive in the mail.
I am wary of the “psychological distance X amount of information received” ratio, and what it would do to my day. I am sure others have noticed an emerging principle in the world of communication and technology. The further removed a communication gets from a direct, face-to-face interaction, the more contacts you are likely to receive. Every day, people rarely show up at our front door, with the exception of an invited guest, salesman, or other random stop-in. We get a few phone calls a day. We get a decent amount of emails per week. Teenage girls average roughly 4,000 texts sent and received every month. I think some adults are not far behind. Weekly social networking feeds are often loaded with tens of thousands of new pieces of info. Said another way, the less directly people communicate, the more likely they will send information.
A few months back, I was talking to a cousin who is a coach. In his early days of coaching, he recalled a conversation with a mentor about how to handle parents who were angry about something. His mentor’s advice was simple. If you get an email from an angry parent, always respond by clearly validating their concerns, and then asking them if they would like to schedule a face-to-face meeting to discuss their frustrations. Most will opt not to do so, unless the concern is really serious. A similar idea seems to apply with all of us. If it is really important, critical, or interesting, we will take a more direct route to let our friends and family know, although since my sister now announces she is pregnant on Facebook (love you Laura), I probably am the last to find out many things already. But the easier it gets to send a message through, the worse I get at managing it all.
The insidious role of distractions worries me. In some ways, I really love distractions, especially when things are very busy. I could easily watch Seinfeld reruns every night. I know there is a daily sporting event that could capture my attention. I don’t always mute the ding on my email at work depending on the day, as there are times I don’t mind my attention being diverted, even if the ding signifies more work or nothing important at all. But as I feel pulled by many different worldly demands and curiosities, there is a stronger pull that keeps gnawing at me that cautions against letting these distractions take over.
Recently, I came across a CS Lewis quote that eloquently describes what I have been feeling. It reads (and by the way, for those who don’t know the book The Screwtape Letters, the “Enemy” is God):
I worry that if I am not careful, “the gratification of my curiosities” will pull me away from a greater call.