The Internet of Distractions: A Case Study In Pursuit of Being Happy

During my second year at college, I got into the habit of writing papers at the Starbucks a few blocks away from my house. Sure, I was drawn partially by the caffeine and the designated study space, but the real reason I went was because (at the time) Starbucks didn’t have free wifi. I certainly wasn’t going to pay for it, so it meant that I was entering a completely internet free environment.

Although not being able to Wikipedia, something like, “Stonewall riots” was at times an inconvenience, it was amazing how much faster I could write without being tempted to browse the web on a link-clicking binge. There wasn’t that distraction, and for the first time since starting college, I could sit down and outright finish a paper a few hours later.

Sometimes I wish I could do that to my brain. I feel like I’m constantly overthinking, changing my mind, barreling down rabbit holes towards false conclusions, based partially in reality and partially in some self-constructed idea of reality that I’ve turned into a truth. Like entering a room without wifi, I wish I could just flip a switch, and suddenly become unable to access the distractions that slow me down.

These days I work a full-time job on a computer, editing videos and tweeting tweets, and recently more than ever, it seems, a stimulant that often effects my experience, and causes me to think of things that are far away from me, is Facebook. It’s funny, I feel like I can trace a direct correlation between my happiness and the amount of time I spend on Facebook. The more I check it, the less satisfied I feel, but still, I check it everyday. There’s something wrong with that picture.

It’s almost involuntary. I find myself absentmindedly navigating to Facebook or Tumblr, every time there’s the briefest lull or I’m halfway through a cup of coffee, because I’m already on a browser for work and it’s there and I’ve grown accustomed to stimulation and I’m curious what’s happening out there. I think I’m also, like a lot of people today, very much addicted to whether or not someone is trying to get in touch with me. Like any form of addiction, if you feel that it’s beginning to negatively affect your life, it needs addressing.

So I had this thought, maybe there is a way I could turn off my brain, or at least reduce my overanalyzing tendencies, and maybe it’s as simple as taking social media out of the equation.

I took a stab at it. Last Friday, on my lunch break, I decided to take a break. I decided that when I returned to the office, I wouldn’t go on Facebook or Tumblr for the rest of the afternoon, and to try and avoid both websites for the next week. I was genuinely curious what, if anything, might happen. If anything would change, if I’d feel any different.

A week’s passed and I do feel a change. I feel more focused, 200% more focused at work, thinking more clearly about the photo projects I want to make, and I feel more present. I feel less concerned with what other are doing because I haven’t been reminded of it.

But, now that a week is up, I’m going to check Facebook and see if I’ve any notifications, quite literally after I post this blog. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll respond to any messages, get up and walk away, and enjoy my weekend. And, since this past week was so successful, I intend to try and make this a habit through the remainder of summer.

I wonder if I can though. I wonder if I can actually continue this new practice, or if it will be another idea that comes to me, one that I write about on the internet, only to have it float away into nothingness while this blog remains a record for as long as I decide that this WordPress is worth keeping around. We’ll see…

It’s strange how easy it is to stop doing the things we know are good for us.