The Paralysis of The Internet

Bombardment of information; never ending messaging with friends; constant onslaught of attention-stealing notifications.

These are a few of the time sinks of the modern world.

We’ve managed to create a world where we’re perpetually connected to the people and resources around us. A world where there’s always another email to tackle or tweet to respond to; where no matter how many Sunday’s we dedicate to reading what’s in our Pocket queue we always manage to fill it back up; and where truly disconnected, unwinding and relaxing time is few and far between.

The infusion of the internet and mobile devices into our daily lives is one that should not be taken lightly. These devices allow us to distract ourselves whenever we want by providing an endless string of “thought provoking” content, forever-growing task lists that rarely get tackled, and deep abysses of stocking-stuffer media masquerading as earth shattering revelations.

Today’s world is being created by digital natives; The ones who grew up with the Internet and are now rising to positions of power and influence within whatever industry they chose to be involved with. They’re backed by powerhouse brands and endless streams of advertising dollars, all of which are dedicating themselves to stealing our time so they can sell their product.

It’s tough to say if everyone’s day-to-day is the same, but the people I know are forever distracted by the Buzzfeed’s, reddit’s, and Wired’s that are really just content mills vying for eyeballs, attention and “likes.” Attention is the currency of this day and age, and if we don’t do something about this seemingly simple fact we’re going to run ourselves into the ground by stuffing our minds so full of words, pictures and videos that provide immediate relief but no long lasting value.

It’s easy to rip on the mindless churn of the Internet, but this piece wasn’t inspired by hating on the masses. This piece was inspired by thinking about the way things used to be. The way people used to work. While they had the water cooler and cigarette breaks, they weren’t under constant siege of advertisers, brands and marketers raging war on one another for our attention and hard-earned dollars. They didn’t have push notifications that go “ding,” hourly content aimed to distract and steal away our focus, or the always lingering need to check for something new and fresh.

Perhaps our generation is cursed by the inability to focus. Maybe that will be our downfall.

People talk about “The Zone” as the place where you’re truly yourself and time flies by without you even noticing. Where you become so enthralled with the task at hand that you lose track of everything around you and produce endless amounts of quality craftwork while feeling as though you’ve barely exerted any effort. It feels as though it’s getting harder and harder to find “The Zone” on a regular basis due to the continued onslaught of things to do, articles to read, tasks to accomplish and projects to progress on.

We're all so locked on our screens and our streams that we lose touch with the world around us and often lose focus from the task at hand.

Startups building products have endless amounts of distractions which results in them producing more mindless content about how to not be distracted at work. It’s ironic that the content about not being distracted has become the distraction itself!

So what are we left to do?

Perhaps the only answer is to put our heads down and make stuff. Create things. Ignore the noise around you. You probably won’t miss much anyway. While it’s tough for the time being, it’d be nice to dream of a future where our attention and energy goes in to our craft, our relationships and our communities instead of our digital representations of ourselves. Perhaps we’ve spent so much time and energy building out the digital infrastructure that we’ll now scale back a bit and begin to make them more subtly infused within our lives.

There’s lots of noise about design versus user experience, as the two go hand in hand yet have distinctly different purposes. Design is how something is crafted to be used, and user experience is how people actually interact with it. It seems as though the user experience of life with the Internet is broken. We’ve cluttered it so full of ads, notifications, content streams and more, that we’ve fallen away from what really matters. We’ve created so much noise that we’ve suspended ourselves in a state of faux-utopia where we feel as though we’re satisfied, happy and content, but we’re really just paralyzed by the onslaught of mass scale digital distractions. Sadly, this is the state of the Internet today. It’s up to us to decide whether we craft the digital-infused future we want to see, or we’re left screaming for a change that may or may not be just over the horizon.