The Decade of Distraction

There’s no denying that the combination of social media and mobile devices are transforming us. The next time you’re in a public place, take notice of how many people are staring zombie-like at their mobile devices, totally oblivious to the world that is unfolding around them. Technology is advancing at such a fast pace that we haven’t had the time necessary to adapt to it from an evolutionary perspective. Science is showing that our brains are being rewired by this technology. We’re becoming less able to focus, self-absorbed, and more @ssholish than ever before. It seems like there's a massive emptiness in people’s hearts and they try to fill this void with material things. It seems we’re more connected to the world but less connected to those people in our lives who really matter. So many people are becoming more interested in recording our lives on social media than living it.

People, used to the relative anonymity of the internet are becoming increasingly brash in both their online as well as face-to-face interactions. This behavior is epidemic and stretches across all age and socioeconomic boundaries. There’s nothing more sad to me that watching a table of people in a restaurant staring at their smart phones instead of enjoying one another’s conversation and company. Life moves swiftly and there’s nothing worse than the sting of regret.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this time in history is eventually coined, “the decade of distraction.” I get it, there’s a lot to be fed up with these days and it’s mighty tempting to search for a mindless escape. The problem lies in how bad things will get if people become completely distracted and no longer are willing to actively participate in the real world.

I like the convenience of my iPhone as much as the next person and social media has completely transformed my writing career. Technology can be an amazing gift if used to our advantage and in moderation. We clearly haven’t found this happy medium, we’re drunk with it. It seems each day this world is becoming more like the dystopian society in my novel Alarm Clock Dawn and it scares the hell out of me.

Some days it takes immense strength and patience to be decent to people and engaged in this world but let me tell you why it’s worth it to make every effort. We’d never know it from watching the nightly news but this world is still a beautiful place and it’s full of interesting and incredible people. History shows us repeatedly how disastrous things happen when society becomes distracted. There’s still much this world has to teach us if we only look up from our phones long enough to pay attention.

~Eric Vance Walton~


The sunlight was quickly disappearing behind the tree tops as the smell of kettle corn filled the air. In the distance the carnies barked with their husky voices, “C’mon win the lady a prize!” Their unofficial anthem, the Eye of the Tiger, blared setting the mood of their hustle perfectly from dozens of tinny speakers. The Canfield fair drew all kinds of folks, people who wouldn’t normally think of venturing outside their own four walls. This was the one event that most felt compelled to experience every year but minutes after they arrived they often asked themselves why.

This particular moment had arrived precisely the minute Elliot handed his paper stub to the ticket taker at the gate. It had been an extremely stressful week at work and all he wanted his comfortable chair and a beer. As usual, within seconds his wife and seven year old son were already a good distance ahead of him.

“Daddy? Daddy? Hey daddy, let’s ride the Scrambler!” his boy pleaded with the very best puppy dog eyes he could muster.

“Ride this one with your mother, I’ll ride the next one.” Elliot smiled as he waved them on. Soon they were lost in the crowd and leaned with his back comfortably against a tree. Elliot sighed and slid his phone out of his back pocket and became instantly glued to the screen. His thumbs moved like lightning, he couldn’t get to the night’s baseball scores and stats fast enough.

Elliot slapped his thigh, “Ahhh, come on Cubs is one win too much to ask for?”

“It is when they’re playing the White Sox!” he heard a voice pipe up from around the side of the tree.

Elliot was first going to ignore this unsolicited remark as he continued to catch up on the scores but his love for the Cubs, once again, outweighed his better judgement.

“The White Sux? Please! I curse the day Comiskey brought them to town.”

Out of the corner of his eye Elliot could see the man peek from around the tree. “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that topic.”

“So, if you don’t mind my asking, who do you like in this election?” the man asked.

“Buddy, umm, you know...I don’t mean to be rude but I.T. world is brutal and I’ve had a really rough week.”

The voice answered, “I can respect that.”

Elliot ruffled his brow as he logged onto Facebook and checked in at the fair updated his status with ‘funnel cakes are calling’!

“But since you mention it, at this point I’m one of the six percent that are still undecided. I’m worried that Romney just can’t sympathize with the struggles of average person.”

“Then there’s Obama. Four years he’s had and here we are.” Elliot said as he scrolled down his Twitter feed to catch up on the news.

“Look, it’s been nice talking with you. Good luck on your choice.” the man said.

Elliot absentmindedly answered, “Huh? Oh yeah. Thanks.”

Suddenly Elliot looked up and noticed a group of people walking towards him. A nervous man hoisted a television camera onto a tripod just a few feet in front of him as a local news anchor fixed her hair. The blaring lights switched on.

“This is Liz Saunders live from the Canfield fair where President Obama paid a surprise visit after speaking at a nearby auto plant. This man, umm, what is your name sir?” She asked.

“Elliot?” he answered.

“Elliot, can you share what you and the President discussed?”