It’s Not Your Phone Distracting You. It’s You.

Ken Knickerbocker
Cell Phone - MONTCO Today

By Wendi Rank

I’d been waiting months for the second season of Outlander. When it comes to bingeing, few things sit as firmly in my wheelhouse as Outlander. The protagonist, Claire, is a nurse transported through time to the eighteenth century. Claire’s husband, Jamie, is a strapping Scotsman who is frequently, well, undressed.

With my husband working for the night and the kids in bed, I could catch up on Claire and Jamie’s time-hopping romance. I donned sweats and located some chocolate, settling into a night I had anticipated for a year.

Then I picked up my phone. Twenty minutes later I was baffled. Why was Claire in twentieth-century clothing? More importantly, where was Jamie?

I chided myself for letting my phone distract me from this long-awaited date with Jamie. My phone isn’t nearly as appealing as his Scottish accent.

But is my phone really to blame?

Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, says not only was I wrong to blame my phone, I was wrong to chastise myself for getting distracted from Jamie’s strawberry curls and broad shoulders.

Writing for the newsletter Psyche, Eyal says distraction stems from negative feelings. He also says if you can’t make your phone into a scapegoat, rest assured you’ll find something else to blame.

But Eyal says distress is a good thing. If using outhouses a la Outlander wasn’t cold and creepy, society wouldn’t have invented indoor plumbing. If necessity is the mother of invention, then distress is its father.

If we want to cash in on that discomfort, Eyal says to figure out why you’re getting distracted. For me, it’s the unease of my husband’s overnight absence. I’ve read one too many true crime novels. Prowlers like homes where the only hunk hanging about is fictional.

Now that I’ve pinpointed my discomfort, Eyal says I can prepare for it. Settling in for the night reminds me I’m also alone. Locking up and setting the house alarm might remind me I’m also well insulated. That simple act could keep me from scrolling through Instagram, giving celluloid Jamie the attention he deserves.

Surprisingly, when social media’s tentacles pull us from work, kids, or spouses asking who’s this Jamie guy, it may not be because social media is inherently evil. Eyal notes there’s little research proving social media is malicious and corrupt.

So is looking at free memes of Jamie when I’m paying to look at episodes of Jamie acceptable? Not necessarily. We just need more research into social media before we can definitively say social media is to blame for missed deadlines and aggrieved spouses.

Said spouse would be way more aggrieved if he knew how much I spent to see Jamie – in all his glory – for thirteen episodes or so every year.

To see all of Eyal’s steps for minimizing distraction, read his post at Psyche here.


Wendi Rank is a Willow Grove native with a graduate degree from LaSalle University. She has worked as a school nurse, a registered nurse and nurse practitioner in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She has previously written for the journal Nursing.