I strive to be strong, physically and mentally but find myself weakened in my attention at times. Aimlessly scrolling, surfing, and swiping.
“That was funny…”
“Wow! That’s crazy!!”
“I need to share that!”
Thoughts just bubbling below the conscious boil. Passing the time on soon to be forgotten impulsive judgments. Seldom relevant or lasting.
The influx of data, and information into our minds in the modern world is staggering. I can’t handle it. I don’t know if anybody can. I’m sure there are ways in which I can better moderate my consumption of digital information, but the compulsion is real.
I am scared to estimate tabulations of my hand-held screen time in the last 2 years. If I had that number presented to me it would scare me. It probably adds up to days of distraction.
I know what I want to become, and what I want to do in life, but I still slip. I still face a barrage of GIF’s, memes, and videos at an alarming rate. All these things I view take time away from my dreams and creative time. I literally am stealing from my future self for a few mindless chuckles that won’t matter in a few days — if they ever even did.
Distraction. I would dissect this word as follows: Dis-traction — the inability to get traction. Today this is primarily going to be a digital battle. Our ancestors were distracted by things in their immediate environment — something shiny, or otherwise captivating to the senses. Not us. We are distracted in another world. We are distracted in the digital depths. We are somewhere else.
Heads and neck craned downwards at an alarming and unhealthy angle. Eyes glazed over. Brain releasing pleasure hormones and simultaneously numbing out as it cannot fully absorb, process, or store the amount of information being force-fed into it.
I speak of the extreme ends of the spectrum — not every individual with a smartphone is always distracted. But most are. And I’m one of them. I know this. But it is still hard.
I have taken several actions to combat this undesirable behavior, with varying degrees of success. I will continue to refine the process until I feel that I am using technology more than it is using me. Controlling my mind rather than it being controlled. Definitely a progress in work.
1. My phone does not enter the bedroom. It’s not my alarm, I don’t scroll right before sleeping. The first thing I do each day should not be instantly diving into my phone. This helps limit days where that happens.
2. Rotationally quitting Social Media. I have been on Facebook for a decade. During that time I have quit it completely and de-activated my account twice — each time for a year or longer. It feels really good. I definitely recommend it. I noticed so much more time on my hands, and was forced to find ways to use it. I completely quit SnapChat a few months ago. Zero regrets, or desire to return. SnapChat was adding zero long term value to my life.
3. Unsubscribing, unfollowing, and deleting. I get too many emails, and see too much negative crap everywhere. So I actively refine what I’m seeing in my inbox, social feed and other sources of media. Filtering and curating what I do see when I’m immersed digitally has helped. That way the time I spend on a device is not COMPLETELY mindlessly wasted.
Fitting in that small list into my rant hopefully adds some more immediate value. Those three are at the very minimum, worth experimenting with. All our attention is finite. If you’ve read this far I am truly grateful.
Even sitting down to write this I was endlessly distracted. I love writing but when I’m not paying attention time can get sucked into the abyss of absentmindedness. Avoiding what I love and value long term, for the immediate gratification of “like checking” and other compulsive social media vices, is a problem.
Fortunately problems are synonymous with challenges to me, and I love challenges. I can figure this out. This writing exercise is a freeform dialogue to that end. This problem is not unsolvable, it is just new. Faced with such an abundance of information we are required to be more discerning. We are required to use our decisions and choices so many more times per day than ever before. I do not always win. It’s hard.
However, I do think about it and spend time auditing my own behavior. Even if I am frustrated with what I find, I am on the path to correcting it by recognizing it. The start of regaining the traction that Dis-traction aims to steal.
I write about distraction knowing that it is not only my battle. I write about it knowing you and I share this mental combat with our devices and the growing addiction we have to them. I know we can do better. I also know its not easy. People expect us to respond, like and share their stuff, and we don’t want to miss whats happening.
As internet connection becomes more and more globalized we will see these physiological and physiological addictions spread to those who venture after us into the sphere of connectivity. They will soon know the our blessing and our curse.
Some people spend more time on phones than deeply engaged in real life. For some the internet is real life. Instant access to anything can make us try to witness everything. Distracted from the outside world they miss everything that really matters.
Breathing deeply. Moving our bodies. Eye contact. Nature. The things that developing nations pay more attention to than we do. But, they are about to become distracted too.
What happens then? What happens when nobody is paying attention?
This is the 48th installment of Writing Wednesday — a project I began inspired by Steven Pressfield in order to get my ass at the keyboard writing. This has been 48 weeks straight. I’d like to think I’m getting better, but still need a lot of work. That’s what this is. It’s work.
Let me know what you think, good or bad.
Originally published at medium.com