A world of distraction

Last updated 12:05 17/09/2012

Sometimes, it's hard to form a single coherent thought.

As I'm typing this I can see the round little Google Chrome logo in the corner of my screen that acts as a gateway to the internet. In front of me is a blank screen in need of filling, but behind that colourful circle is a world of rocket ships and music, art and wonder, goofy cats and pretty ladies. It's a Pandora's Box of unproductive awesome.

I feel like this:


We live in a world of distraction and it sometimes feels a bit overwhelming. It gets worse when you can access the wonders of the internet on your telephone, along with emails, Facebook updates, direct messages, tweets, text messages, Skype messages and blog comments. And it all fits in my pocket.

Every time there is a development in web land, the phone makes a little noise or vibrates. As soon as I feel the phone vibrate in my pocket, it sets something off in my brain. It feels primal, like a bird responding to the tiny cries of hunger in its nest. I must check my phone.

Sometimes I think I feel the vibration, but my phone isn't even in my pocket. It's on the desk. So now I'm responding to my vibrating leg? What fresh madness is this?

This sleek little phone is the boss of me. I think we bonded in the Canterbury earthquakes. I was in The Press building on the day of the February 2011 earthquake. This phone was the only way I had of making sure my partner, the Essex Princess, was safe and letting her know I was safe. Phone calls wouldn't connect, but text messages seemed to get through.

It was also how I made sure my family in the UK knew I was safe. I didn't want  them to wake up to footage of my workplace in ruins on the TV news. That's exactly what they did see when they turned on the TV after my middle-of-the-night text. It probably looked something like this:

Sky News

In the countless chunky aftershocks, a text exchange with the Essex Princess was the reflex response. "I am safe. You OK?'' "Yes, fine. Love you.'' Then I would check Twitter and feel calmed by the fact that everyone else was freaking out too. I wasn't the only one left with shaking hands as the adrenaline ran stale.

I think these experiences have left me reluctant to be too far away from my phone or even turn it off.

So, how does this relate to movies? Well, when I go to the cinema, that is the only time I turn the phone off. I would never leave it on in the cinema - what do you think I am, a savage? It is blissful to have a break from its vibrating tyranny. It lies dead in my pocket, unable to distract me.

But my phone is changing the way I watch films at home. When I'm watching a DVD the phone is never far away. I find myself checking emails or idly browsing Facebook as I watch a film. Sometimes I will recognise an actor, but can't remember their name, so I will look them up. Or I will look up the director and see what other films they made. Or I will follow some other curiosity that the film has kindled in me.

In television, this is being encouraged. It is known as Second Screen - viewers use a tablet or smartphone to access additional information, like scorecards during sport. A show like New Zealand's Got Talent seems designed to work better if you follow Twitter at the same time.

But I don't think it works with movies and it's sending me nuts. I'm disrespecting the art form I treasure most. So, I'm making a public pledge here now. When I watch a film at home, I will turn the phone off or hide it somewhere out of earshot. I refuse to let this world of distraction spoil the purity of the movie experience.

What about you? Do you find you are distracted by your phone, laptop or tablet when watching movies at home? Is it sending you nuts too or do you find it an addition to movie watching? Sign up and post below.

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