Most of us have fucked our attention spans,
and I'm going to suggest a remedy.
Like me, until recently, you may find that while you planned to have a productive Saturday,
you instead spent it on
and o t h e r s i t e s,
and got nothing done.
Well, it's because the internet is absurdly addictive, and can cater to anything,
you want to see.
And that's wonderful.
At the advanced, practically terminal age of twenty-seven,
I remember a time when the internet was a luxury.
And if you were on the internet, friends couldn't phone your house, so you used it sparingly.
People in chatrooms were polite, (usually), even the creepy old men, because it felt like you were part of some new frontier
that was going to change the world.
The Net was a tool back then that you usually only turned on to do something specific with
and it was, amazing.
Now, the Net is incredibly sophisticated, and you can do bloody anything with it.
However, this also came with a downside that looked like an upside.
Which is that most of us are permanently connected to it, via our phones.
Just as I am guilty of, you may find that in the morning, before even brushing your teeth, or making a cup of coffee, you check your e-mails.
And if you think about it, that's kind of fucking crazy.
You may have also noticed,
again, like me,
that reading books, or listening to a whole album, or just trying to learning a new skill that doesn't involve a screen,
is substantially more difficult than it used to be.
And half way through, you just give up and check Reddit,
for no good reason.
(shoutout to /r/accidentalrenaissance)
So here's my baseless conjecture.
I reckon the Net, and phones in general, have seriously diminished human attention spans,
to the point where we now expect almost immediate gratification for performing tasks.
And when a book gets a bit boring, as they usually do,
or playing an instrument is tough, or we get stuck alone with our own thoughts,
we switch to doing something mediocre online rather than persevering with something difficult in the real world.
That is un-good.
So, around a month ago, I thought,
"Well, this is jolly silly,"
and set some ground rules.
For the next month, I'd spend an hour in the morning answering e-mails, quickly check the news, check my life online,
(because that is my job)
but then I'd just unplug the router for the rest of the day.
And I didn't plug it back in until the next morning.
I went and bought a load of books I've been meaning to read for ages,
made an effort to go see friends in the evening,
and every Saturday or so I'd go back through my subscriptions and have a watch of Youtubers I was really into.
And the internet began to feel like a treat again.
For the first day, or two, it was a bit weird,
and I could feel there was a kind of instinct to reach for my laptop everytime I felt bored.
But soon enough your brain works out that there's no point, because it knows it's:
No Wifi o'clock motherfucker!
And sure enough, tasks requiring concentration get easier, because you learn that you can't just escape into the lovely, fuzzy, warm oblivion of the internet.
And on top of that, you realize, or I certainly did, that for a very long time now, you've been sacrificing productive time,
or just an hour to have a think about your life,
for the sake of watching something you don't really give a shit about, out of fear of being bored.
Fast food is delicious, but you're not supposed to eat it for *every fucking meal*!
If you'd'te describe the internet to anyone before the nineties, they would have assumed we'd be living in a techno-utopia, and that everything would be amazing.
And like all technology, they probably wouldn't have predicted,
that this big lovely binary cake comes with some downsides.
Now we have two personas to manage, our real one, and our digital one.
Snail mail has been replaced with digital mail,
(which people get angry with if you don't answer immediately),
and instantaneous transfer of information has given rise to immediate boredom with anything that doesn't have a hook in the first ten seconds.
For a month, or just a week, use the internet as a tool again, rather than a source of constant gratification, if that's what you're doing now.
Set some rules. If you work from home, download a site blocker.
Take up a hobby in the outside world that you've always wanted to.
Start watercolour painting! (Pinky promise, it's worth it)
More than that, there's probably something you've always wanted to get into, or a project you've always wanted to finish.
Why not do it now?
You'd be amazed what you can concentrate on when you're suddenly not obliged to check what everyone's been having for lunch that day,
or what certain presidents have been tweeting recently.
It's a bit worrying if this is a growing trend.
I know people who can't sit through movies without playing Candy Crush or checking Twitter.
Games, and the Net, are only going to get more alluring as time goes on. The problem isn't going away.
We're getting extremely good at hijacking the reward centers of human brains.
Combine that with virtual reality, or whatever's coming next, and that is a kind of scary prospect.
In the same way that you wash your hands after using the toilet,
we might one day start teaching digital hygiene, where we all learn to keep our concentration on one thing at a time, rather than running 10,000 tabs all at once,
ALL OF WHICH ARE CATS
So, for a month, I dare you to step back from the Net, and go after whatever it is that you've always wanted to do in real life, but couldn't find the time.
Read some books, learn to bake,
get your camel riding license,
Attention is a resource, and we only have a limited supply,
and it's silly to spend that resource on things that may temporarily stop us from being bored, but don't really provide any mental nourishment.
...Much like my Youtube content!