Over the last decade or so, the internet has become an increasingly central part of our lives. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate the World Wide Web, the knowledge and opportunities it has given us.
But has it also created problems in the way we manage our day to day lives?
I’ve always prided myself on being an academic type with a strong work ethic, but over the last few years I’ve noticed a definite drop off in my ability to concentrate on a particular task. It doesn’t matter if it’s writing a blog post, a work project, or even watching television, my mind will frequently wander off to something else.
Or even worse, if I have a few tasks to complete, my brain will jump wilfully from one to another, preventing me from actually focusing on one job and getting it finished.
Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of working on a job and lose the thread completely so I’ll decide to check my social media accounts. Half an hour later and I’ve been sucked into a vortex of hashtags and status updates, funny memes and BuzzFeed links. There have been occasions where almost a full day has slipped down the black hole of the internet without me managing to do anything constructive. But maybe that’s more a reflection on my willpower than anything else?
Even my ability to watch television without distraction has faltered. Much to my husband’s annoyance, I now can’t sit down in front of the TV without my laptop or iPad. I’ll work on my blog, check social media, browse the internet, or even play games because it’s just too hard to focus on the screen in front of me. So instead of one, I focus on two. Go figure.
Ironically, my inability to focus has also made it more and more difficult for me to switch off. Having a blog means there is always opportunity for work of some kind: checking traffic stats, tweeting links, editing photos. The boundaries you have with a regular job don’t exist, because you work at home so there is no separation between the two things.
At this point I think I have forgotten how to switch off and I’m starting to suffer for it.
But can I really blame the internet?
Maybe my lack of attention is down to laziness, age or some other human factor. I probably wouldn’t change my ways even if the internet was responsible.
Sure it’s nice to put down your phone or switch off the computer and get out with friends or go on holiday. Would you really gain anything from unplugging for a long period of time, even forever?
As we increase our social media use and become ever more reliant on our online worlds, walking away completely is going to be harder than ever.