How to know you are addicted to distraction

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in late summer, and you were at your parent's home, back in the garden. You looked around and smiled. You really miss the place. The trees, the green grass, the view to the valleys, the swing just a couple of meters away. You turned your head back to the table and saw your whole family was there. You haven't seen them for a year now. The conversation you'd hope to last a while only lasted an hour before everybody was busy on their cellphone. Well, except your old parents who by then already disappear inside the house. Maybe taking a nap. You let go a little sigh. Then the silent went on.

We all get distracted. The question is, would you bounce back or bounce backwards?

Kendrick Lamar.

That scene, my friend, was my Harajuku Moment (Chad Fowler created this term as he decided he will act to better his health). I was holidaying in Indonesia at that time. When I was with my family, I realized that everybody (except my old parents), was having a cellphone. That also includes my two-year-old nephew and grandniece. There was no conversation after all the excitements of seeing each other again ran off. Why are they so addicted to distraction? Their cellphones? 

I was stunned. There I was, after flying for more than twenty hours, excited to meet my family and everybody was busy on the phone. My nieces answered “Okay” when I asked them about the school, without taking their heads from the cellphone. The sister and older nieces were looking at Instagram. Brother-in-law was checking business emails, and the small ones were playing games.


The first thing I felt? I was revolted. How did we all get to this point? I was scared and started to feel unreasonably sad. Is this how it’s gonna be every time? No more quality time, no more rich talks, no fulfilled feeling? Is this how I will remember my family reunion? Tons of photos but shallow memory? Plenty to say to these unreasonable people. I needed to let them know that this is disrespectful. As I was becoming a bit angry, something hit me. I wasn’t any better. 

I was one of them…

Always connected


I was always in denial that I used my cellphone excessively. After all, more than half of the population are using it. It has become a new norm. Everybody I know owns a cellphone. Most of these people are on social media. Heck, even my little nephew has his own Instagram account. I remember my nieces used to have an iPad before I knew what the iPad was. To finally have my own Ipad was an exciting moment! It was in 2012 and my sister gave me an Ipad for my birthday. I was excited and told myself I was gonna make that thing useful. It ended up being a toy. Yes, a toy. Useless freaking hours playing that stupid Candy Crush. Fell in love with Pinterest the first time and kept pinning… and pinning… and pinning until three in the morning. If I wasn’t on my iPad, I would be on my cellphone or my computer. I was always… connected.

The fear of missing out plays a huge part in being addicted to distraction.
Photography by The Lazy Artist

Distraction and excuses will always be there. Opportunities won’t.

Brad Turnbull.


After a while, that new norm, the habit to always connect, started taken a toll in my relationship. However, as I said, I was in denial then. It wasn’t that I ignored him when we were together. But the constant checking did enough job to spark the disagreement!
The first time he pointed out, his words were like winds to me. I might have said ‘Nah’, or ‘You were right’, I couldn’t remember anymore. But he kept pointing, and there was the time he gave up. But obviously, it bothered him so much. It didn’t take him long to point out how seriously addicted I was to distraction, how I was on my phone all the time. 
Up until that Indonesian holiday, my responses were varied. I told him it was only in his mind, and he was exaggerating. There was a time when I simply said that he should just respect it. (Come to think of it, appreciate what? Bad habit?).

After that Indonesian holiday, on the plane returning home, I was determined to stop being addicted to distraction. I realized that I have overused the privilege of having full function technology. By doing so, I have taken other essential aspects of my life for granted. I was addicted and distracted, not to mention wasted so so much of my precious time.

One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us. -Daniel Goleman


One of the first things I did, which was a crucial step for me, was acknowledgement. In other words, I forced my self to face to truth and be honest that I had a pattern of negative behaviour. I am an adult woman who has a healthy mind and not under any kind of influence that messed up my head. So, all I need was my willpower to acknowledge this negative pattern and eventually find a way to break it. Sometimes, we are in denial because we don’t have the habits of really looking into ourselves. 


I created the term of my own, which act as an affirmation for me. To change a habit is not easy, but it’s doable.  It just has to start somewhere. So these were the stages I went through and the metrics I used. You are welcome to copy these methods for your own battle.


Create awarness of yourself is a good start to acknowledge your habits

I am a pretty stubborn woman, and I also have a habit of questioning my thoughts, more often than not. Different excuses for me rejecting the idea that I was being addicted to distraction were plenty. Those excuses seemed valid at the time. So, I decided to brainstorm with my self by writing down all the excuses I could remember and snap them with honest reality.

For example:

Question: But why should you stop when everybody is doing it? It’s normal in the modern world to always be connected.
Answer: Because this behaviour isn’t making any positive impact, at least in my relationship.

Question: But what happens if you disconnect and something terrible happens to your family so far away?
Answer: If something really horrible happens, they will call, not text. There is no need to keep checking messages that aren’t there.

Question: But you live in a fast-paced world. How if you miss any crucial information?
Answer: Seriously, you are not some hotshot CEO in Silicon Valey. You are one of the masses. Any information that you are missing today will still be there tomorrow. If it’s even relevant to your life.

Back then, I had a lot of questions. The purpose of that exercise was to “force” my logic to work. I tried to break the reasoning behind the pattern, which mostly deductive ones.
Our habit is something that has been formed for quite some time, and our brain recognizes its formula.
After I felt confident that I could alter all the deductive logic to be more aligned with my reality, I moved on to the second stage.


Mobile phone plays a bit part in distraction

For a month, I was obsessed with the shallow bond I had with my cellphone. I let it happen naturally and log my daily habits to a journal. Here is what I found:
  • I couldn’t wait in line without getting my cellphone out.
  • If I had a book with me on the train during commuting, I would still use my phone at the end.
  • The notification was on. When there was nothing on the screen, I opened each and every chatting app.
  • Checking email too frequently.
  • At night, I would scroll and scroll on Pinterest (one of my most favorite app) for hours.
  • My cellphone always comes to the toilet with me (oh come on, who doesn’t?), ended up spending a longer time than I had to.
  • FOMO (the fear of missing out), so I was very active on Instagram.
  • Opening Facebook regularly became an excuse to check on family members.
  • If Candy Crush would give me money for every minute I spent on it, I would be a millionaire by now.
Reading all those facts was like a slap in the face. It felt as if distraction has conquered my life. The horror as I realized how much time and money I have spent on my phone. I could be doing other things that matter instead.
Progressing with my findings, the whole picture of that addiction became a lot more real. I moved on to the final stage afterwards.


Here was the result of my observation
  • I felt uneasy and guilty consciously and subconsciously because I knew deep down that I was wasting my time.
  • Unable to prioritize and keep my schedules.
  • My mind jumped quickly from one thing to another when I worked.
  • Regular headaches and neck pain.
  • Becoming defensive and very reactive
  • Horrible mood swings, I was not on my normal PMS.
  • False alarm of anxiety attacks from getting agitated too easily.
  • Procrastinate a lot, so nothing gets done. The house was always a mess. It was chaos.
  • The focus was a stranger. I hit my head, hit my toe, can’t remember some lines that I read. I felt that something was wrong with my head.
  • Trouble sleeping, and it really decreases my productivity in all areas of my life.
  • I started comparing myself to other people on Instagram.
Now, how bad is the last one?

Reflect and evaluate yourself to get a better insight of the cause of your distraction.


Acknowledging our own flaws is not easy, but it wasn’t super hard either and is crucial to do. So, if you now are on the stage I was, don’t worry. I am with you. There are a couple of ways to cut off your distraction and be more content without. I have been there, and I am still trying to this day to better my self in this department.
The good news is, it’s doable to get out of this. It’s doable to not being addicted to distraction. Just like any non-drugs related addiction, like shopping for example or procrastinating. I did it. So could you.
But first things first.
Honesty. You might have your Harajuku Moment reading this story, or you will find your moment sometime else and somewhere else. You might use my metrics and my stages to know your own truth, or you will find another way somewhere else. Either way, you need to sit down with yourself and be honest. Acknowledge honestly and reward your self by starting to form better habits.
Are you addicted to modern distraction?



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How to know you are addicted to distraction