The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Here’s another enjoyable essay from Craig Mod. He’s one of my very favourite writers and this article was no different. However, although I usually read Craig’s writing and feel like he’s ahead of the rest of us, that was not the case for this article. His experience reminds me of many others in the past year or two (example).

By the time I finished the post, I thought back to how Cal Newport opines that Internet sabbaticals are not a true fix for the modern knowledge worker. For those who want their attention back. And I agree.

If Craig, and the rest of us, wants to get back to a state of mind and being that he had before the Internet became what it is today, that will require more than the occassional respite from constant connection. He has the right desire:

Attention is a muscle. It must be exercised. Though, attention is duplicitous — it doesn’t feel like a muscle. And exercising it doesn’t result in an appreciably healthier looking body. But it does result in a sense of grounding, feeling rational, control of your emotions — a healthy mind.

His attempt to achieve this healthy mind? He quickly recognizes that coming back to the connection after a long absence brings a quick return of old habits.

And yet, the quietude of those disconnected days evaporated as soon as I came back online. It was a shock to feel my mind returning so quickly to where it was before — namely, away. Elsewhere. My attention so eager to latch onto whatever cleverly architected spaceship of dopamine was flying out from my consciousness. It was immediately clear that vigilance was required, some set of rules. And so here are mine:

The internet goes off before bed.
The internet doesn’t return until after lunch.

While I like the efforts, including no internet at all until after lunch (impressive if you get up at 5am, slightly less so if you rise around 9am … so this depends on Craig’s schedule), I feel like Cal Newport’s ideas are better suited to truly winning this battle. Not using Twitter or Facebook at all, or the internet for your entertainment, has to be more effective than trying to wean yourself of the dopamine, while simultaneously letting yourself go back to the firehose for a portion of each work day.

In the end, I believe it goes back to desire. What you want most, you will seek. And you will find. Bringing change, even getting back your attention, will be easier done with a change in what you want, rather than attempting to self-discipline yourself and control your urges.