Choose Your Own Distraction

I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books growing up. It was exciting that my decisions could determine the outcome of the story.

Yet as soon as I got to the end of the story, I would go back one step to see how the other choice would have ended.  Then I would go back two steps and play out all of those endings. Only after reading every possible version of the story from beginning to end would I be willing to return the book to the library.

I thought about this recently while reading, Net Smart: How to Thrive Online.  In this book, author Howard Rheingold talks about mindful use of digital media which he describes as “thinking about what we are doing, cultivating an ongoing inner inquiry into how we want to spend our time.” The section on ‘attention’ addresses how we are bombarded with potential distractions each time we open our laptop…

If you’re like me, the first thing you do (without thinking) is click on your Internet browser. Then, with the same lack of conscious thought you begin to:

Browse Facebook
That video looks interesting…
Get lost in the YouTube vortex
I should email that video to…
Check 1, 2, 3, or all 4 email accounts
Aw crap, I forgot to…
Pay utilities
That’s way higher than last month…
Review energy usage over the past year
Speaking of graphs…
Check your WordPress stats

Somewhere in this process you remember why you opened your laptop in the first place and bring your focus back to the task at hand… at least for a little while.

It’s like the Internet is one big “Choose Your Own Distraction” book, but we’ve forgotten that we actually have to make choices to enjoy it’s design. Instead we’re reading straight through from cover to cover.

We still get to the end, but it’s much less effective.

And to be truthful, it’s probably far less enjoyable as well.

But enough about that, I’ve gotta check my email…

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2 thoughts on “Choose Your Own Distraction

    1. I experienced this this morning. I was scanning YouTube for coordinating pieces for my blog posts and after “discovering” some amazing new artists with their work on global display, it was two hours later, time to go to work, and no progress on my blog post. The internet is an amazing tool, but using without a disciplined approach can lead to it becoming a black hole.

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