‘Let me just check this one notification’.
I am deep at work, when my phone clings its notification tone. I don’t wish to be distracted, yet there is a small itch in my brain to check just that one notification. ‘After checking on it’, I think to myself, ‘I am going right back to work’.
You guessed it – 15 minutes later, I am still flitting from one screen to another on the phone.
Why does this happen only too often? Well, underlying this behaviour is an identity crisis. We assume that the person deep at work is the same as the person who glances at their phone screen a couple of minutes later. However, having looked at that notification, we are no longer the same person. We have received new stimulus, and this has slightly altered our identity – from a person who wishes to only focus on their work, to another who wants to follow a notification one link deeper. After clicking on that link, our identity changes again.
A distracted person is not the same as the focused person they were a few minutes ago. The continuity of their identity is an illusion.
You are what you are stimulated by. By extension, you are also the stimuli you surround yourself with.