Begone, foul being!
Facebook launched in 2005. In 2006 I joined Dennis Publishing as a staff writer on the then bi-weekly computer and tech magazine, Micro Mart. Twitter launched in 2006, although I don’t think it gained much prominence until around 2008 or 2009. (If anyone tells you they were one of the first on Twitter, they probably weren’t. But 2008 was still early for the mainstream, to my mind).
The first proper ‘smartphone’, I suppose, was the 1st Gen iPhone (2007), but it was discontinued the year after when – in July 2008 – the iPhone 3G was released. I had an iPhone 3G, and I think it was the first real time you could get proper consumer-grade mobile Internet.
Now, it would be presumptuous to say that if there’s any time you want to look at regarding the ‘rewiring’ of human brains towards digital distraction it is this three-year period. After all, tech in many forms was around before, and things have certainly grown since. But I’m focusing there for now, because from around 2006 to 2009/10 I have a tricky time remembering much about specific years and events relating to those years. Possibly this is related to a severe concussion which left me with (thankfully, only) acute tinnitus for five years afterwards. But still, I wonder if or how ‘digital distractions’ are impacting us, and if they’re sucking the natural joy, the inspiration, and the creativity away.
To be clear, I’m defensive about computer games. Not all of them, but particularly those which allow for deeply focused escapism and the absorption of narratives, characters, and worlds with a need for sustained cognitive engagement. Essentially games that aren’t mere distractions. Of course, I’m no expert in brain function, but YouTube (also launched in 2005) recommended me an interesting video this last week.
On the Inspired Minds YouTube channel – featuring American businessman/entrepreneur Jim Kwik – the video’s name is odd, but it touches on mental fatigue and digital distraction: something which probably continues to impact millions upon millions of people. In my view, perhaps mainly since around 2005.
I’m not saying the video offers any facts, but it is interesting enough to read and research around, and to see some sort of sense in. Here it is.
One of the points mentioned in the above video is the practice of not looking at your phone for the first hour of a day. That may seem tricky, and indeed I’ve found the impulse to look is worryingly persistent, even though I don’t consider myself addicted to my phone. This is the first hour when you are waking up, having a shower, getting ready, helping your children, having breakfast, sorting the pets, etc. Avoiding your phone for non-essential actions feels doable for many, and in the last week, I’ve made myself do it. The result has been decent too.
Not only do I look at my phone far, far less during the day, but I’m also more productive, I have more brain space, I’ve found myself more content and more emotionally available (even to myself).
And…I’m more creative.
That may be because my brain has more time to work subconsciously, while I have more time to provide it with the sustenance of more natural observations. But I also have more focus available for varied longer form media which requires sustained concentration and feeds the imagination.
I don’t have much more to write here for now, but I wanted to share these half-formed thoughts. My brain feels far less distracted and capable than it has in a long time, and it’s helping me be more creative and focused: exactly what I need right now. So really, I hope this helps you in some way if you need it. Perhaps a bit more headspace is helpful.
In any case, at the time of writing this, I’ve been awake three hours and looked at my phone briefly, twice. One of those times was to check some YouTube video stats. The other was to check the time. It was 6:35 am, November 15th, 2021. Around 13 years since I first had a smartphone, and 16 years since I had proper social media (MySpace doesn’t count).
I dread to think how distracted I’ve been.
Have a great week, will write soon,