Digital Distractions

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I rather dislike it when a single word drops onto a line all its own in one of my blog posts.

I find that distracting and hard to read. That's why I often rework a sentence to fit the space properly. This attention to word placement and layout is a necessity of print--such as in Sonlight's Catalog--but can be easily ignored within digital publications--like this blog. But line breaks are just the tip of the iceberg, to borrow the colloquialism.1

The "salience cues" like font size and text placement can be ignored in a digital layout. This is part of the hypothesis as to why a recent small study found people remembered more of what they read in print. Natural page breaks, non-animated ads, and careful story selection all seem to be pushing print ahead of digital delivery when it comes to retention of the written word.

Even here we're only a couple feet under the ocean's surface. I'm guessing the "real" reasons people don't retain as much online are the distractions. Not so much because of annoying flashing ads, but because the other opportunities are easier than reading. Example: You could stop reading and go play Angry Birds right now.

I'll be here if you come back.

But these digital distractions don't just impede reading. Several times while writing this post I've switched windows to check my email and see if anyone has asked a question on Sonlight's Facebook page. Why? Because writing is hard; checking my email and Facebook are not.

Don't get me wrong: I love my computers (yes, plural). My job is built on the internet: RSS, blogs, email, websites and the like. I've got a pretty strong work-ethic. But even I, who got an iThing for Christmas because it would allow me to shoot and edit movies on the go, spent a few minutes last night playing Siege Hero.

How many movies have I shot with the same device? 1.

On the other hand, I've knocked over 61 towers.

As things continue to shift toward digital delivery, may we make a focused effort to ignore the distractions and use these powerful tools to learn and grow.

Do you give in to digital distractions in your homeschool, work, or blogging? How to help your family stay on task?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

1. To borrow from Eugene Meltsner.

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  1. Debbi

    Digital distractions, um, yea. Supposed to be doing laundry right now, instead checking facebook and email. I shall refrain, for once, to also check the SL forums before getting to that laundry. If I went there...let's just say there would be no clean clothes tomorrow.

  2. I'm constantly digitally distracted. I don't know if reading a paper book would be any different, though, unless I could somehow get miles away from an Internet connection. Actually, since I live in Mongolia, that shouldn't be that hard, should it?

  3. Stephanie

    I really have to be careful to not even turn on the computer unless absolutely necessary. It is a huge distraction with Facebook, twitter, email, blogs, not to mention the hundreds of other sites I like. And I love tabs--it's so easy to switch from one to the next. I have 15+ open right now. hehe. I find it strangely humorous that I stopped reading your blog to check that so I could post it in my comment. So when we officially start our homeschool year next week, I'm going to have to schedule in computer time. For myself. And then stick to it! :)

  4. Debbi, I hear ya there. My wife and I both frequently get distracted and forget to get to the laundry. <smile>

    Sumpteretc, good times <smile>. If I actually get around to taking the time to read a printed publication, I'm usually sitting somewhere away from my computer. That works for me.

    I really like tabs too, Stephanie (and they are a super powerful tool). But, yes, so easy to get sucked in. May you stick to your schedule <smile>.