It took me three tries to get through Addicted to Distraction by Tony Schwartz. I wish I was kidding but I’m not.
If you haven’t seen this piece yet, take a bit of time and read it before continuing here. And if you aren’t able to get through the piece either, the gist of it is that, like sugar and alcohol, the internet can be addicting. I know this news isn’t new but my experience with the article was.
I sat down to read on Sunday morning over a cup of coffee. Then a child was ready for breakfast so I stopped reading and started cooking. I tried to read it again in the afternoon but then I heard the sauce bubbling so I stopped reading and started stirring. By the time I tried to read it again, Rob had taken the paper to the recycling bin. After looking for the article on Facebook (and finding a few other things on Facebook along the way), it was time to pick up Katherine from ballet rehearsal so I stopped reading and started driving. I finally sat down to read for a third time and had to go back to the beginning because I had forgotten how it all began. That last part is a joke but only sort of.
As I read, I acknowledged that I am fully addicted to the internet. I check my e-mail far more times a day than I would ever admit. I often forget to respond to e-mails because I don’t want to respond to them right away because then people would know how often I check. After a little bit of time has passed more e-mails have come in and I tend to forget the one that I ignored earlier. I am definitely caught in the ‘compulsion loop’ referenced in the article. When I open my e-mail, and see new information, I do a happy dance and when there are no new messages, I feel a bit sad. I have the same reaction on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I have a nearly constant need for new information.
As I said earlier, none of this is new. What I realized was that my addiction came as part of a perfect storm. The internet is there and it is addicting for sure. The distraction provided by the internet is real. What I also know is that my time is divided in to small bites of time perfect for surfing.
While I no longer have the demands of parenting small children, my medium sized children still take a lot of time. They ask a lot of important questions and they need help reaching things and I still don’t trust them with the stove and they can’t drive. My days are interrupted a lot to tend to the needs of the girls. When the girls aren’t home, I spend a lot of time with volunteer commitments. I go to meetings, make phone calls and answer e-mails. I run errands. I spend time with friends.
All of this is to stay that my days are full.
There are though probably dozens of times a day when I have ten minutes to spare. I can’t cook dinner in ten minutes. Or write a blog post. Or finish the photo books. But I can check my e-mail. Or get on Facebook. Or scroll through Instagram. So I do. And the compulsion loop begins. The next time I have ten minutes to spare, I wonder if there is any new information out there and guess what? There is. Every single time. Every time I check, the compulsion loop is fed because there is always new information. And there is always another awkward ten minutes to fill. I wonder if I had large swaths of time in my days if I could have avoided my internet addiction. I’d like to think I would have but I can’t say for sure.
Unfortunately, the author of Addicted to Distraction had a few suggestions to break the chain but nothing that felt like a simple solution. Sadly, I suppose he didn’t offer a simple solution because there isn’t one. Attention to the problem and hard work seem to the only fix. I suppose I will celebrate that I am half way there. Now on to the hard work part of the solution…