Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Distracted

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Distracted

Article excerpt

Electronic media are increasingly enveloping us. An electronic environment is beginning to suffocate our senses all our waking hours. There is one main culprit. Cell phones are with us everywhere, sending us texts from friends and family, and making the internet available all the time.

How to describe this increasing ecology of media? It used to be described as "mass communication" with various "effects." But by the twenty-first century, mass communication is also highly personal. And it is so all-pervasive that there doesn't seem to be any way to separate out "effects." Media are simply part of the fabric of everyday life. This is true for most people in the United States and Europe, especially for the young. Here is where language can help us think about this situation.

A word has started to appear in discussions of driving. The word is "distracted." It refers to drivers who pay more attention to their cell phones, or their text messages, than they do to driving. The results can be fatal. No statistics are available on this phenomenon yet. But the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities are growing. You can die because you are a distracted driver, or you can die because a distracted driver runs into you. I teach college students, and usually there is someone in my classes who knows someone who was injured or killed in this way.

The word "distracted" seems to be a growing term. It has also been applied to students who become so absorbed in their online relationships that they pay less attention to schoolwork or to people in their own surroundings. I see distracted students in my classes when I allow computers to be open--for taking notes--but soon people are checking texts, surfing the web to see the latest movie trailers and the latest Facebook postings, and, oh, yes, checking back into what is happening in class occasionally. …

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