The internet is one of the most important innovations ever but it comes with its baggage. The most damaging baggage is its capacity to distract and suck in its users into mindless clicking and scrolling. The consequence is that many of us become so distracted and unable to concentrate and get more important work done in a timely fashion.
The biggest culprits are social media sites. Not only do they provide endless amounts of content that one can mindlessly scroll through, they also speak to the human ego that likes to be liked and known. Suddenly, anyone can become an “influencer” by simply having many “followers”. Whether the message posted is true or not is irrelevant. What matters is the number of likes or retweets or followers it attracts. The writer Johann Hari, in his book “Stolen Focus” said we are suffering from an affliction he called a “treadmill of continuous checking”.
I quit Facebook in 2017, even though I was not a big user, I realised it was affecting how I was spending my evenings, affecting my ability to concentrate on difficult content, fragmenting my attention and reducing my capacity to complete projects that require time and sustained focus. So, when I got a new job that required I became more productive, I decided it was time to quit Facebook. Though I kept my Twitter account, I was not using it. I returned to Twitter in 2020 during another job transition. It was a distracting and toxic place. I quit it for good in 2021 after the Federal Government banned it. I have no regrets as I can spend my evenings more serenely rather than spending my time on social media with all its toxicity. I also used the time I freed up to make progress on three different educational programs. I only kept my LinkendIn account, which I use to post activities of our non-profit, once in a while. I also rarely engage in liking or sharing or commenting on LinkedIn content.
Another method I use to reduce distraction is by removing all notifications on the apps on my phone including email, despite it being my preferred mode of communication. A few times during the day, I login to read emails. I also use filters to remove junk mails automatically to reduce the number of mails I get. The apps on my phone are also limited to banking and finance apps and email. There are no news or social media apps on the phone and I login to LinkendIn only on my laptop.
I also have the Freedom software on my phone and laptop. It blocks internet usage and certain websites and apps at certain times of the day, which allows me to get work, that requires concentration, done more efficiently.
The above are some of the methods I use to reduce distraction and regain my ability to concentrate on difficult content. In today’s competitive economy, the ability to learn difficult content quickly and make connections between different strands of information and disciplines is valuable. Few people can do it due to the distractions caused by the internet. Make sure you are one of the few and you will be rewarded both personally and professionally.