Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 18 October |
The Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist
Aleteia logo
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Try this daily habit for more creativity in your day

Distracted by Phone

Shutterstock

Calah Alexander - published on 08/24/17

Part of it is about finding time to quiet your mind and think.

One of my favorite memories from college is rambling through campus late at night, when everything was still and the stars and streetlights cast weird shadows across familiar ground. I did my best thinking then, often stopping to scribble down notes for a paper or lines of poetry.


Woman Painting

Read more:
Why middle age is prime time for creativity

Of course, being a millenial, I had my cell phone with me … but it wasn’t yet internet-capable. Facebook was still in its infancy, social media was just beginning to emerge, and taking a walk (or even walking to class) necessitated unplugging from the nascent world of technology. I couldn’t help but remember those late nights when I read this post at Open Culture on information overload.

Bar-Ilan University’s Moshe Bar and Shira Baror undertook a study to measure the effects of distraction, or what they call “mental load,” the “stray thoughts” and “obsessive ruminations” that clutter the mind with information and loose ends. Our “capacity for original and creative thinking,” Bar writes at The New York Times, “is markedly stymied” by a busy mind. “The cluttered mind,” writes Jessica Stillman, “is a creativity killer.”

Thinking back, I realized that those memories of late-night walks are skewed a bit by perspective. I remember the campus being quiet, nearly silent, but it couldn’t have been. There were always people out, even in the middle of the night — and even if there weren’t, our university was right next to a major freeway. There was constant traffic, horns, and the onrushing sounds of semi-trucks barreling past.

The silence that I remember wasn’t a physical silence, it was mental. It was the silence of a mind at rest — which, ironically, is why I did my best thinking then.

Of course, some of the mental load I carry now is inescapable — it’s part of mom life. But a lot of the mental clutter is just that: clutter. When I take a break for lunch or a cup of coffee, I pick up my phone and scroll through Facebook or read the headlines. I read interesting articles and click through promising links. I know lots of stuff now, about medieval antibiotics and green children and Prussia’s role in French pro-maternity laws. But all that information is just … information. I don’t do anything with it.


People with Phones

Read more:
How to unplug in a world that’s always connected

I also don’t scribble down bits of poetry anymore. I thought I had grown out of it, but maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe those half-poems and lilting rhymes have just been drowned out by too much noise, and too many Wikipedia rabbit-holes.

I’m not saying that the internet is evil. I think I will love Wikipedia until the day I die. But there’s no denying that my creativity plummeted as my time online increased. I miss those times when my mind was quiet and I had room to think.

It’s enough to make me want to be more intentional about my information consumption. It’s silly to pretend that I could unplug completely or throw my phone in the ocean — the internet is too vital for modern life. But scrolling doesn’t have to be mindless. The next time I’m tempted to click on an interesting headline, it’s worth pausing to consider whether I’m clicking through out of boredom and habit or genuine curiosity. And then maybe I’ll put the phone down either way and go for a walk — without it.

Tags:
Mental HealthSocial Media
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Philip Kosloski
A scientist describes the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima
2
AVENIDO BROTHERS
Agnès Pinard Legry
Three brothers ordained priests on the same day in the Philippine...
3
Cerith Gardiner
Archbishop gives little girl a beautiful response about why God a...
4
difficult people
Zoe Romanowsky
How to love people you don’t really like
5
SKULL AND CROSSBONES
Margaret Rose Realy, Obl.OSB
The ‘Tree of Death’ haunts many a cemetery
6
SQUID GAMES
Philip Kosloski
How the violence in ‘Squid Game’ can impact your soul
7
Larry Peterson
This is the only officially recognized Marian apparition in the U...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.