The problem isn’t technology per se, but the expectations it has engendered: a steady stream of entertainment and stimulation. Or, as Bertrand Russell — who lived through the invention of electric lights, radio, and television — put it: “We are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more afraid of boredom. We have come to know, or rather to believe, that boredom is not part of the natural lot of man.”
It didn’t make sense — I feel lucky to have two great jobs, but still I’m restless and distracted. At least I’m not alone: a Times op-ed about this exact problem was side-barred with a long list of comments along the lines of “Clicking on ‘Addicted to Distraction’ as I try anything to avoid writing my paper . . .” and “As I was reading this very excellent article, I stopped at least half a dozen times to check my email.” I read all the comments, as I increasingly did for most articles. I hadn’t seen a movie or read a book in what felt like ages, but I somehow found the time to read hundreds of Internet comments written by strangers for “research.” Mine was the strange half-life of the fad dieter, gorging on an entire loaf of tasteless gluten-free bread and congratulating myself on my virtuous abstinence.