Click above image for slideshow (8 photographs)

Cult of Distraction:
Modern society’s addiction to the digital world
laid bare in photographer’s carefully crafted images

In this day and age it’s difficult for quieter moments of the human experience to compete with the egotistical currencies of the digital realm. The digital world is largely designed to be addictive, playing on the brain’s reward mechanisms to keep us coming back. With “its unpredictable but continuous loop of positive feedback, simulation of connectivity and culture of comparison,”1the Internet has become a compelling surrogate to meaningful real-world interaction.

Cult of Distraction was born out a growing personal frustration with the inclination to mindless distraction by the smartphone. I became deeply disturbed by my increasing awareness of the ongoing rift in communication, interaction and connection that left me feeling distant from the people in my life. When vocalizing my frustrations had little positive effect, I often felt compelled to pick up my phone to avoid being the odd one out. Knowing that this certainly couldn’t be the productive way forward, I decided instead to make it the subject of a photographic series.

There’s no doubt that we live in a time dominated by screens. These days it seems like children are handed a smartphone at around the same time they are handed baby bottles. Exposure to smartphones happens at an increasingly young age, permitting the formation of entrenched addictive behaviours with the smartphone at their core.

The versatility and presence of smartphones has fostered an environment where we (often inadvertently) permit ourselves to be distracted from immediate life, foregoing a large part of our essential human experience to a debased, impersonal one. The shameless devotion and absorption most of us display in regards to our smartphones often resembles a cult-like fixation.

When we continue to run away from the discomfort of boredom or unpleasant feelings with smartphones, we stifle imaginative thinking and further alienate those in our immediate lives, trading mindfulness for mindless alienation and hapless addiction.

1. Alter, A. (2017). Irresistible: why we cant stop checking, scrolling, clicking and watching. London: Bodley Head.

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Written By
Pedro Hespanha

Pedro Hespanha

Pedro Hespanha is a Toronto-based photographer whose personal work explores themes of isolation and the human condition in the 21st century. Born in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Pedro takes inspiration from the likes of Phillip Lorca DiCorcia and Gregory Crewdson, who he deeply admires for their mastery of lighting and the staged tableau. He is currently working on his photography thesis at Ryerson University, where he is completing his BFA in the Image Arts program.