You’ve probably heard the horror stories about Twitter and Facebook, how people have been lost for days when they get carried away.
O.K., maybe not really, but just the same, time can evaporate when you’re posting and tweeting.
Yet I don’t think the Twitter or Facebook Time Suck is the worst thing they do.
And no, I’m not worried about the way old photographs seem to emerge from the mists of time and find their way online.
I think it’s the Concentration Zap that’s really dangerous. And social media aren’t the only sources of this problem.
For one thing, if you’re spending too much time with social media, you know it. You see the numbers on your computer clock change. You feel your muscles seizing up.
But what you don’t see, whether you’re using social media or just googling around, is how much your concentration suffers.
And if there’s anything a knowledge worker needs in the Information Age – other than Internet access – it’s concentration. Focus. The ability to stay on task in the midst of a tsunami of stimuli.
In fact, there’s so much coming at us all the time that you could spend most of your workday just skimming e-mails, feeds, tweets and more, and nobody would think too badly of you.
Until your work stopped getting done, that is.
And that’s the thing of it. Abandoning work and just going with the information flow won’t instantly put you completely outside the mainstream.
I think this means we’re all being trained to be distractible. Even those of us who think we’re strict with ourselves about the time we spend with e-mail and social media are at risk.
When checking this and checking that are the new normal, the person who can keep his or her seat on one train of thought all the way to a destination is a lucky individual indeed.
I find that the times I’m most likely to start clicking around are when I’ve hit a sticky point in a project, or an article. Sometimes I scarcely realize I’m doing it… my pace just slows down and then I start checking my e-mail to see if something’s come through.
I figure that instead of buckling down to solve whatever problem I’m facing, I bolt before I notice it, because I’m primed to embrace distraction.
As with any problem, I think the first step is awareness. So I’m trying to notice my drift towards diversion and find ways to stay focused. It’s like fighting off the craving for a cigarette when you’ve just quit, but I’m hoping I can make progress.
What about you?