Kill the hyperlinks

Reflection on the three-day experiment

Three days away from the Internet has been fruitful. Life became much simpler, and more enjoyable – less time spent online, more time reading books and talking with real people. Even had a lovely conversation with my flatmate, who is often busy but does not reject random conversations in the leisure time.

There is one thing I have to mention: focus became difficult for me when I read. I’m okay with short articles, but when it comes to long documents, I get bored after the first couple of paragraphs.

Can’t focus

Why is my lack of focus a problem? This is a problem because my goal is to read and reflect. Without the ability to focus for hours, I could hardly accomplish either.

Where does the problem come from?

On the fourth day, I sat in front of my laptop, clicked on one link of my favorite website, and felt a spring of instant satisfaction, which came as a total shock.

I thought I was over it. I thought I could be happy enough with just plain old books.

Turns out the Internet is still a monster that easily swallows my limited attention.

Hyperlinks

“hyperlinks distract people from reading and thinking deeply… what is different and troubling, is that skimming is becoming our dominant role of reading.”

What to do now?

Simply put: kill the monster, eliminate the sources of distraction.

Specifically, I have divided the websites I usually visit into 6 categories, some of which I’ll visit daily and some others only once per month.

Go against the trend

It is difficult to initiate the change, especially when most others are busy staring at televisions or enjoying the endless joy from clicking hyperlinks. I’m sure at this point, none of my friends would be interested in what I’m doing, even though ironically they refresh their facebook constantly during the day for updates.

This time I’m so determined, because I realize the Internet has done something nasty to my brain, and I just don’t like it.

In the past, I would care a lot about what others think of my projects. I would overthink and put too much pressure on myself. The brutal fact is, no one else care about what you do; most of them are just happy following the trends they see in the media, reassured that they are not “outliers” of the society, that the possibility people pointing figures at them is minimized. And the minute you have finally achieved something, they would woo and wow, without recognizing the risk and effort you have devoted.

Maybe I should write about how our world of entertainment has changed our ability to think critically.

Note

1. The quote above on hyperlinks is from The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr.

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