Is the Internet a Tool of the Devil?
Social Media Hooks our Attention and Reduces Our Productivity. What Can You Do to Combat it?
I’m addicted to Facebook. Or perhaps it’s the red dot on the Facebook app notification to which I’m addicted. If I have a Facebook tab open on my computer browser or if I look at my phone and there is a dot on the app, I feel so compelled to look to see what’s going on. I want to know who has posted some inspiring or funny quote. Did a friend “like” or comment on something I posted? To what exotic place can I be transported simply by being an observer of someone else’s timeline?
What is it about that dot that makes it so sticky?
Curiosity: blessing or curse?
Curiosity. I want to know. And when I’m bored or I’m looking for a distraction from work, I need to know.
Curiosity hooks our attention, and it can serve us or hinder us.
My desire to move to France came about fairly suddenly over the course of a few months. It wasn’t a life-long goal I’d had since childhood. It was a sense that I got quite recently. I wanted to live there for some unknown reason. The language was a draw, for sure, but beyond that, nothing logical. This sense soon turned into a burning desire based on a gut feeling. I wasn’t curious at all why I felt the need to live here. I just knew I needed to.
It took about a year for me to get the courage up to seriously explore moving to France and determine if that was a real option. My urge was so great I hired a coach and did the scary work of looking at what I’d need to do and who I’d need to become to make it a reality.
It wasn’t until I’d sold my belongings, quit my job, and had been living in France for several weeks that my curiosity started to get the best of me. I had to know why I randomly decided to turn my comfortable (but unsatisfying) life upside down without a clear plan. I was a project manager, for God’s sake, yet I’d landed in France without a plan. My intuition told me to do it and I listened to it. But once here I found myself asking the questions: Now what? What have you done? And what the hell for?
Not knowing why I’d made such an absurd move and being uncertain how I’d make a living here started to eat away at my euphoric feelings and I began to feel a bit anxious. I needed to know what my future held. Curiosity had settled in, but not the kind that empowers. It was the kind that is laced with doubt and that fills your mind with negative catastrophic, “what if” thoughts. This kind of inquisitiveness threatened my ability to remain in the country I’d worked so hard to reach.
Moving From “What if” to “What Could Be” Thoughts
Fortunately, my awareness of my feelings which led back to destructive thoughts kept me from sabotaging my accomplishment. It was an awareness of how trapped I felt when I demanded (of myself and of God) to know why France and what’s next. This feeling was so different from the excitement I’d felt when I turned in my letter of resignation, sold my belongings for a song, and boarded the plane at Dulles International Airport, terror and hope coursing through my veins in equal measure. Not knowing but needing to know felt constricting; I felt afraid and alone. To combat this, I used positive affirmations and deep breathing and other mindfulness techniques to hush the negative thoughts and reassure my soul. After a few months, time and these techniques lessened my need to know, and I averted the downward emotional spiral that unhinges people when they can’t shake these thoughts of doom and gloom.
The other type of curiosity, the kind I feel when I launch a new product or come up with a new idea for a story, and am not worried about the future, feels freeing. This brand of curiosity allows me to follow the flow of my spirit, where I get even more ideas, and options and possibilities multiply. This type of inquisitiveness hooks my attention, too, but it is more constructive.
So curiosity hooks our attention in real life and online. It can lead us into temptation or deliver us from evil. So what about those notification dots for Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, and the like? Where do they fit?
Was My Mother Right?
When the internet first came onto the scene and there were stories about pedophiles using the internet to lure children to them, my mom called the internet a tool of the devil. In some ways, I thought she might be right. But that didn’t stop me from starting a blog back in 2014. My first blog post was ironically entitled “Tool of the Devil?”
As I mindlessly click on the icons for social media sites that show up with a notification dot, and I feel the mental and emotional drain, I’m reminded of her sentiment. I do so much work on the internet it can be difficult to distance myself from these notifications, and the curiosity that springs from a seemingly innocuous red dot. It’s challenging. But as I did to conquer the negative disaster thoughts from my early days in France, I work to tap into my awareness and create practices that allow me to enjoy social media without it ruling my time and breaking my concentration, eroding my effectiveness.
So What Can You Do?
One approach I’ve taken is to close out my social media tabs while I’m working. Out of sight, out of mind. I also place my phone in another room, so I’m not tempted to check it every five minutes. And I have started to schedule a couple of small blocks of time on my calendar, that represent real breaks from work, where I can enjoy the news of the day from friends on social media and not feel my productivity tank.
These are a few things I’ve done to combat the curiosity that pulls me away from getting more accomplished and can leave me feeling out of control. What impacts has social media and the pull of your curiosity had on your productivity? What things have you implemented to help you stay above the fray?