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The lure of the LED screen


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#1 Anthony_NYC

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 07:45 AM

The Chicago Tribune has an article about the sudden increase of people texting during movies and live performances that are supposed to take place in a darkened theater. Maybe it's a New York variation on this, but on a number of occasions I ask somebody to turn their phone off and they either stare at me like I'm crazy or they simply flip their phone over so the LED is in their lap--and then they keep turning it over (surreptitiously, they think) every few minutes to see if there's a new message, which is almost more distracting than keeping the dang thing on. It's like a form of autism. They just cannot train their mind on the event at hand, or comprehend how their behavior affects others.

Anthony

#2 kfw

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 08:02 AM

Sad isn't it? I'm reminded of Nicholas Carr's article in The Atlantic Monthly a few years ago, Is Google Making Us Stupid?: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

Over the past few years I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going—so far as I can tell—but it's changing. I'm not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I'm reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I'd spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That's rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I'm always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.



#3 Anthony_NYC

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 08:48 AM

Yes, and just to be clear, I didn't post this link to get into another argument about personal rights or what constitutes rude behavior. (After being away for a week, I discover that while smoking may kill, threads about smoking will never die!) No, what I find disturbing is that increasingly people seem unable to give themselves over for two hours at a stretch to the event taking place in front of their eyes. And I have to admit I even feel this tendency happening in me, which is shocking and scary. Not that I text during performances--but I might sometimes if I weren't so self-conscious about my neighbors. I also find it harder to read without distraction when I'm doing it on one of my handheld devices. I'm too tempted to check my email, the news headlines, the weather report. Until I read this article I didn't know about the dopamine aspect. Are we all getting doped up by messages from our friends? Should I start leaving my phone at home when I go to the theater? I keep telling myself I will, but I never do. I guess it does feel like an addiction!

#4 bart

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 09:00 AM

Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I'm always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

:speechless-smiley-003: I've begun to notice this recently, too.

The purchase of an up-to-date smartphone seems to have made this worse. The thing vibrates constantly, and I can't wait to get to it to check out what new message has arrived. WHY?. Inevitably, it is precisely the sort of message I've been getting for years on my p.c. But now it seems urgent. Unbearably seductive.

Similarly, I am constantly looking things up on WikiMobile. All a name or title or historical event has to do is pass through my mind, and I''m reaching for the phone. Even things I know perfectly well already.

A case of very late-onset ADHD?

The arts audience in south Florida is sufficiently elderly and civilized that lighted phones not yet a big problem. Requests to shut the phone off usually work Not yet a problem like NYC, where phones do seem to be setting off "a spark to pierce the dark from Battery Park to Washington Heights," to quote Sondheim's Broadway Baby.

Flash-light magnifying glasses have quite a following down here, however. The curtain no sooner rises than people beginning lighting up to check the program. This, despite the fact that they have been holding the program unopened on their laps since they took their seats.

#5 sandik

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 09:06 AM

I've noticed the 'flip your phone over' trick for a couple of years now -- it started in movie theaters, but now I've seen it at dance and theater events as well. If you look over the audience, sometimes it seems like fireflies twinkling on and off.

I have sympathy with the people who want to check their programs, though. I do look at mine when I sit down in the theater, but sometimes find that my short term memory has purged all casting information the moment that the lights go down...


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