The Internet's Effect on My Attention

The arrival of the internet means that, for possibly the first time in human history, knowledge is in overabundance for the average person.

There is far, far more good, quality content being produced that one could physically or mentally consume in their lifetime, even if that was their sole purpose in life. As knowledge-seeking individuals, this is problematic. What happens when you take a starved man and sit him down in front of a feast? He gorges himself to death.

The internet’s effect on my attention is alarming. When browsing the internet, I will visit sites with vast amounts of interesting content on them: I will open up 5 or 10 or 20 tabs of things I want to view, then manically switch between them, reading a snippet of this or watching a bit of a video. Many of these pieces of content lead to me opening another several tabs, and the cycle continues. It’s attempting to satiate a unsatisfiable desire for more.

This behavior has bled over to my reading habits: I’ll be reading a fantastic book on my iPad, get bored after a few pages, then switch to another book. Then another. I have access to hundreds of books right at my fingertips, so instead of treasuring one or two at a time I’ll attempt to switch off between all of them in a hopeless undertaking to have it all.

In doing this, I fail to realize that, in this day and age, sanity doesn’t come from choosing what you consume, it comes from choosing what you don’t consume.

And so, for the first time, I’ve decided to control what I read, watch, and listen to. Delete all your tabs, Robert. Open one website, enjoy what you read, then close it. No more of this endless feast, you have no time to be full if all you do is eat.