Monday, January 30, 2012

Is the Internet Making You Lose Focus?

While I'm working on the computer, I usually have about four Internet tabs open: my email, my blog, Facebook, and Pinterest. I'll flit back and forth between them during the day, and invariably a link on one will lead me in a completely different direction and distract me from what I need to be doing.

This is precisely why I do my writing on a laptop that has no Internet connection.

I sometimes wonder if the Internet hasn't made us into an impatient, distracted, and easily amused populace. It reminds me of the scene in Batman Forever (with Val Kilmer) where the Riddler (played by Jim Carrey) invents a machine that connects a person's brain waves to the television in an all-encompassing, zombie-like experience.

On the radio this morning, a deejay said he had a link to the Top Five Time Wasters on his website. He described each one and I thought, really? Have we come to this? A game where you try and get rid of all the green dots, or a website where you make paper animals and join a community to see what other people do with their paper animals? Yeah, that sounds like a huge time waster to me.

Don't get me wrong. I adore the Internet. I've been able to make connections I wouldn't have otherwise, can research to my heart's content, shop, pay my bills, and much more. But I wonder if we're taking it too far. We're so "plugged in" and there are so many different things we can do that our attention span may very well be diminishing by leaps and bounds. I speak from experience. There are times when I'm clicking on things and skimming the article or video or whatever, then a few seconds later, I'm clicking on something else. I've noticed that instead of taking the time to really read something, I'll skim through it to get the meat of it because there's so much more out there that I want to read. It's sad, really.

We may not all have this problem, but I realize that I'm not liking this shortened attention span of mine. It may be time to start limiting Internet usage for this gal and start regaining my mental focus. 

What do you think? Do you feel yourself losing focus when on the Internet?


  1. What? Oh right, do I lose focus on the internet.

  2. I'm pretty routine with my internet usage, and use it mostly for research both on my stories, and on the publishing industry. Other than that, I don't go off in too many directions. For my uses, it is definitely invaluable though.

  3. Aoife - LOL.

    Joanne - When I'm at home, I'm not on it NEARLY as much as I am at the day job. Since I need the Internet for work purposes, I tend to stare at the dumb thing all day long.

  4. I'm like you Melissa. I've been spending too much time clicking and skimming in the name of learning about news I really should care less about (i.e. Ashton Kucher's new hair style! Who cares! Well it didn't stop me from wanting to know!)

    I'm almost envious of the "old days" and the absence of the internet. One of my favorite modern stories where people disconnected themselves and got back to a simpler way of life is 1940's house. Have you seen it? It's good:)

  5. Yes! The internet is a huge distraction for me. I tell myself I need to keep up with the news because I'm a writer. I know, lame. Here's my trick: I set a timer for 30 minutes and do nothing but write for those 30 minutes. Then when the timer goes off, I take a short break. This increases my productivity by so much I can't even believe it. The power of focus is incredible.

  6. I definitely don't have as much focus as I should, but it allows me to be spontaneous. Like when I'm working on something I'll be like 'shoot! I have to do this!' Then I can do it right way.

    And...I left you an award on my blog! Pop on by and get it :)

  7. Valerie - What is it about celebrity news? I do the same thing and then I think to myself, why do I care? Frustrating. I need to stop doing it (unless the story is about Daniel Craig...then, I will click away!) I've heard of the 1940s House - but haven't watched it. Must remedy that.

    Charlotte - Thanks for stopping by! :-) I think the timer is a great idea. I wonder if I can implement that at work...

    Kelley - When it comes down to it, I can really focus and get something done. But oh, how I procrastinate...thanks for the award!

  8. Hey, Charlotte!! *waves* We actually know each other in real life, how unexpected to see each other in your blog comments, Melissa!

    Wait, what were we talking about?

    Focus. Losing it. Yes. I need to start doing what Charlotte does. Obviously.

    Actually, this is a perfect example of why the internet gets so distracting. The unexpected encounter, the new tidbit of information, the you-never-know-what-you're-going-to-find-oh-just-peek-it'll-only-take-a-second. And another two hours goes by...

  9. Yep... I waste way too much time on it! I've managed to resist Pinterest so far in spite of numerous invites, but that's probably because I'm already so addicted to Etsy! :)

  10. Christine - Oh, cool that you two know each other! (Another reason to love the 'Net). I would hate to tally the time I've spent just mindlessly surfing online. I could probably have written an entire novel or more.

    Erin - Oh, Etsy is another place that I can get hooked on!

  11. I try to use the internet as a treat. If I write a page I can go look at Facebook or my blog. That way I'll write more. Unfortunately it doesn't always work.

  12. Yes I do find it a distraction but I try to keep away from it as much as possible - do FB and blog etc at different times.

  13. Oh I totally agree!!! I'm so sad but I deleted Pinterest because it was just getting too addictive to me. I'd finally switch off my internet to get some focused work done, but only after realizing that the "10 minutes" i'd allocated for "playing" turned into an hour!!!!

    I deleted Pin and my Tumblr blog after reading an article about how for some people, a lot of internet exposure (like gaming and some other things) actually changes your brain patterns. That freaked me out!

  14. When I'm writing, I only stop to do two things; get more tea, use the loo. (Or put the tea in the microwave because it's gone cold.) Now when I'm editing... I'm still able to stay focused, pretty much. I don't FB, but I do check email, book stats, or the news. (I'm a news junkie, sigh.) I can't say WHY I'm not that distracted by the internet, other than when I write, I am pretty much in the zone. When I edit, I'm about half-way there...

    But what a coup for you to use a laptop with NO connection! The internet has made writing easier in so many ways, but yes, it can be a little monster. Just a matter of managing I guess, like any other troublesome time-waster.

  15. Patti - I wish I had that discipline!

    Flower - I need to follow your lead and stay away from it more. :-)

  16. Margo - I read an article about how it changes our brain patterns, too, and I'd have to say that my attention span has definitely gotten shorter on certain things. Scary.

    Anna - I love that you get completely lost in writing and aren't tempted to go check out the 'Net. That's why I like to write on the laptop. If I want to go on the 'Net, I have to stop what I'm doing and go downstairs to our home computer. I'm not nearly as tempted to do that!

  17. I just saw an article on facebook yesterday (OH THE IRONY!!) on how it takes 25 minutes after reading an email or checking social media for our brains to refocus. That hits hard for those of us who write and obsessively check the internet all at once!

    I shut down most everything last week and I got a TON done. But also, I felt very inside myself and tightly wound. I unwound by allowing myself a little computer fun time on Friday night.

    It's a two edged sword, I guess. Maybe as an addict I'm just not at the admitting I have a problem and need to fix it stage yet. :)

  18. Heidi - LOL. I can relate. I thought my email was out today and I actually panicked, then realized how ridiculous it all was. But I also think as writers that we are such solitary creatures that if we lose our connection to the outside world, we tend to get antsy.

  19. Unfortunately, the Internet seems to mirror the way my all-over-the-place brain has always worked. I'm always doing 10 things at once. Which is why I'm hesitating joining Pinterest. (I know how I am, and fear I'd end up with two hours' sleep a night!) :)

  20. Angie - I think that's how my brain is, too. All over the place! I guess that's why we're creative people. :-)

  21. I so agree with you! It's something I've been working on in the last weeks. I've been unsubscribing to many e-mails I get, opting out of all the games I play and even toyed with leaving FB, because I know it's distracting me. I would love to have an internet free laptop, but that's just not possible. Gotta get tough with myself!
    Love your blog BTW.

  22. Hi jtwebster - Thanks so much for stopping by. :-) I've briefly thought about getting off of FB, but all of my family is on there - even my 86-year-old grandma. :-) So it's awesome to stay connected with them that way.


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