Internet and diffused focus

. 2 min read

I recently watched the latest members video, called Deep Work vs. Internet Part I, on Academy of Ideas. I listened to the video while trying to eye some random online article online when suddenly the irony of the scene startled me.

The speaker on the video was talking about how the internet has rewired our brains to focus on multiple things at once; how we scan through articles looking for the golden nuggest without bothering to read the whole thing through; how our focus is scattered all over the place. Soon enough masses can no longer read actual books - their attention span simply can't handle it.

I realized I've started to do this with both online articles and YouTube videos; that I just roll down the article or the video timeline thumbnail to see where the main points are with no desire to "waste" time concentrating on the whole. My subconscious was telling me this was to save time. But perhaps scattering my focus and so reducing my attention span is too high a cost.

I felt like shutting down my laptop and just cutting out all internet until I'd had the chance to read a few long books and prove myself I hadn't lost my ability to focus. But I couldn't. Internet is a core part of my work. I publish articles on my own online platform. I produce and publish videos for YouTube. I have several other projects involving the internet. I also have an email account.

You can probably relate to my situation. But do you see the problem? Or have you accustomed yourself to the necessity of the internet, social media, clickbait links, and everything else that wants to grab your attention - whatever the cost? Is this your normal?

If you see the problem with the decreasing attention span and can't work without internet, here's a suggestion for a solution: use only the sites you absolutely need. Don't use any other sites. Stay away from sites that have links and clickbait articles. (I've been told that simply seeing a link automatically forces your brain to ponder, even if for a split second, if you should click it or not, making it hard you direct your focus back to the task at hand.) Don't watch YouTube videos. Don't read online newspapers. Don't look for recipes online. All of these are designed to keep you at the site and to open tens of linked videos and articles.

Instead, do your work, and then shut down the computer. Pick up a hobby or a book or go walk in the nature or listen to music or cook improvisedly. Force yourself to do something singular for a longer period of time, be it watching a movie or staring at a wall. Commit to the exercise. See what happens in your psyche. Do you feel uncomfortable? Can you pass the exercise with ease? Do you get thoughts and ideas that surprise you?

Once you're confident that you can concentrate on a singular task for hours at a time, you can try to watch an entire YouTube video or read an online article without trying to skip to the points.

Or you can realize that most online articles and YouTube videos have no valuable content to you, and just drop them from your life altogether and focus deeply on the things that matter.