Not waving, drowning (in information)

[I]f statistics persists, most of you probably won’t make it through this entire article. Don’t worry, I won’t blame you.

Clayton d’Arnault doesn’t think I’d finish his article. But I did. Mainly because it was so interesting. If I was being picky, I’d say that most of the reason people have ‘short attention spans’ is that they quite like people getting to the point. He could have used less words, to be fair.

There’s some familiar material in here such as quotations from The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, and statistics to do with how often we look at our mobile devices. That being said, he does point out that our addiction to information and social connection is nothing new:

Infomanics like myself are likely to feel the effects of information overload, a phenomenon caused by overdosing on information, which reportedly developed as early as the 3rd century BC, when writing allowed us to record and preserve information longer than memory. Information overload is a mentally, and physically, taxing condition. Symptoms include sluggish thinking, a flitting mind, and stifled creativity.


[A]ccording to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are five stages of needs that motivate humans. Two of these stages, social connection and self-actualization (specifically the pursuit of knowledge) make it clear why we’re addicted to the Internet. The Internet more than satisfies these needs by providing an unlimited connection to family and friends, lovers and life partners, thoughts, ideas, theories, opinions, data, and other invaluable resources. It’s the perfect solution — social connection and endless knowledge on demand.

I do take issue with his rationale (echoing Carr) about our concentration spans diminishing because of technology:

As a kid, I was able read the Harry Potter series front to back. Now, it’s just as Carr asserts: “The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” It seems that my infomania has taken a toll on my sense of concentration. I can’t focus on an article for more than a few minutes at a time without checking my phone or opening a new Chrome tab and disappearing into a click hole of links. I have to consciously force myself to finish reading a piece longer than 500 words. I have a habit of scrolling to the end of an article to determine how much more reading I have left, and ultimately to decide if I plan on finishing the article, skimming it, or just moving on.

I’m of the opinion that it’s equally as likely to be because of the sheer number of options we have, both as a result of a more ‘free’ and open society — but also because, well, when you become an adult, you can kind of do anything you want. So long as what you’re doing is legal, there’s no constraints.

The reason I’m sharing this article here is because of two pieces of advice the author gives us. First, recognise the power of the ‘Zeigarnik effect’ and attempt to close any open loops in your life:

I’ve found, to my relief, that this feeling of self-induced amnesia is grounded in the Zeigarnik effect — the tendency to experience subconscious, nagging mental reminders to tie up loose ends. Bluma Zeigarnik, the psychologist whom this phenomenon was named after, successfully demonstrated that people are more inclined to recall uncompleted tasks; therefore, completed tasks are lost among the uncompleted.

Second, recognise that it’s not digital detoxes themselves that are important, but the re-prioritisation they afford:

The key is not disconnecting, but understanding why we need to disconnect: to appreciate the constant of life as it is without technology. I believe that understanding this while filtering out the unnecessary can lead to a more satisfying type of inspiration and insight, than you could ever find beneath the online information treasure trove we call the internet.

A worthwhile article from a Medium publication I’ve only just started following. Recommended.