A few years ago I wrote an article on Culture Fasting. I was inspired by this wonderful piece by Alain De Botton on distraction. I find this passage of his of particular note:
One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.
I find that now, more than ever, I am a victim of the ailment he describes. While I am no longer relentlessly blogging about design, as I was back then, I am instead suffering from a far worse fate: trying to keep up with the tech press (and my Twitter feed). This is a most daunting task.
Anyone that has ever subscribed to The Verge, TechCrunch, or any of the big tech blogs knows that you are signing up for a unrelenting barrage of content. Keeping up with this information assault requires near constant attention.
I derive no pleasure, and rarely derive impactful knowledge from this information addiction. Checking my Twitter sometimes reminds me of pushing the button on LOST, but at a far more frequent interval. Despite my awareness of the pointlessness of my addiction, I find that I succumb to that “anxious reach for a machine” far more often than I care to admit.
Botton calls for a period of fasting, or a removal of distraction:
The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.
Like any addiction, the way out is a gradual motion. Defollow, unsubscribe, etc. One at a time.
I’m slowly relearning how to concentrate. You should follow me on Twitter.