Social Media is Fragmenting my Attention?

I inadvertently breezed through an article the other day suggesting avoiding social media first thing in the morning. I think it was about setting goals for the new year, a subject I avoid. Something about how social media is specifically designed to scatter your attention. Well la-di-da. The slant of the article was more about if you are trying to accomplish a goal involving concentration, how about not sabotage your effort right off the bat. Sounds like common sense. There is some irony in the article for me. I have no idea how I stumbled upon it, giving credence to his point. It was nothing I was looking for, more than likely just the opposite. I have various subscriptions on top of the messages Medium, Amazon, Goodreads, etc … sends out every few minutes. The origin may have been benign as checking my email, who knows?

Let me back up to the irony. Social media is designed to fragment my attention? I haven’t heard it said that way but when I thought about it, it makes sense. I have to say multitasking is not my natural state. I am more like a freight train barreling down the tracks. My mind gets in a mode and stays there until the task is complete. I’ll run over shopping carts, cattle or even pennies left on the tracks- oblivious.

Here is my scenario I check my email and something looks interesting. I click and start reading. Almost always I will click on a link to read the rest of the story. All good. Until I go to Medium or a blog and I see something tempting in the margin. I cant wait to finish the article so I can jump to the next. This is with stories I read, Youtube? Forget about it. I’m like that whack-a-mole game popping my head one hole to the next faster than you can whack me with that filthy hammer thing with duct tape all over it. Next thing I know, several videos have popped up in the margin that I really need to check out. It is quite fascinating but whatever Youtube uses to scan my brain is incredible. They flash something I am interested in and I go for the click which leads to something else, to something else- but not before a damn Olive Garden or Tide commercial. Shit. Next thing I know I have squandered a bunch of time and didn’t get any writing done.

When I have designated writing time I often close my browser to keep email from drawing me in, and it does, just not as fast as Youtube. Same scenario, I’m looking for let’s say an email address and one of the many headlines specifically designed to catch my interest, does. Wham bam, I’m off on a mole hole tangent of something very interesting but nowhere near my task of finding the email address. Go back to the previous paragraph and read it in a loop till you get bored. I remember a quote from a while back, well not really, I barely remember the gist of it but it was something like an author with an internet connection isn’t likely writing high quality. Now that I search for the actual quote I can’t find it, of course, but it puts me to wonder how true it might be. Obviously, it shouldn’t be taken literally but it is something for me to consider. What about you? Is social media specifically designed to keep your mind jumping in multi-second bursts?

Originally published at on December 15, 2016.