What is it with cats and the Internet? Do cat owners have nothing better to do than GIF their pets, all hopped up on nip? Or have they succumbed to cat-induced schizophrenia, in which case the cats themselves are to blame, goading their people into oversharing? While we’re on the subject, what’s up with cats in baby strollers, cats on leashes, or cats that ride around on their owners’ shoulders, the better to whisper sweet nothings, aka pitch ideas for viral videos?
Whether the product of boredom or mental illness, should cat-posting behavior be rewarded by mindlessly clicking on the latest meme and perpetuating it? I have better things to burn time on than trying to figure out if that damn cat is going up or down those stairs. OK, I clicked. I’m not schizo, but I am distractible.
The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary describes distractibility as “a condition in which the attention of the mind is easily distracted by small and irrelevant stimuli”—like cats in bonnets or whether or not Greece will default.
We are constantly bombarded by distractions that take us out of the moment—responding to all the responses to our last Facebook post; the ad-mined Web page peddling blurry photos of some bikini-clad celebrity who shouldn’t be, the siren song of a text hitting our phone. Is it any wonder we’ve unlearned how to focus? We’ve become addicted to breaking news, because it’s there. So when the latest round of debt negotiations starts to feel old hat, we turn to cats—because they’re there.
And yet, the present moment—that sweet spot between your last FB like and the point at which Greece implodes—really is an unspoiled paradise of peace and quiet. Mindfulness—the much-buzzed antidote to distractibility—was a favorite sport of Buddha’s. It’s catching on today in places like Fortune 500 companies, where an undistracted workforce supports share price and, after Anderson Cooper demoed it on 60 Minutes, with anyone interested in picking up the pieces of their shredded concentration.
If you make mindfulness a habit, it can increase your productivity, reduce stress, and maybe even make you happier. And no need to sign up for an expensive webinar; it’s simple! All you have to do is focus on your breath and ignore the impulse to post a selfie of yourself being mindful. Imagine what you can accomplish if, for 30 minutes straight, all you did was breathe and focus on the task at hand, with the occasional slug from your Fiji bottle—no social media, texting, email, or Oprah (in any form)?
For better or worse, information overload is here to stay, but those billions and billions of random bytes don’t have to dominate your day. Stand up to what’s small and irrelevant. Take back your creativity, your follow-through and, in the case of cat memes, your self respect. Challenge yourself to complete one task without checking your Twitter feed. Take a walk in nature instead of a Facebook break. Limit yourself to two texts in any given conversation, three max. And just say no to cat videos. Give me dogs on trampolines any day.