How I Got My Attention Back

Week 3 Process Post

“Could I go offline for a month?”

The question circulated through my mind as I read Craig Mod’s article “How I Got My Attention Back”. How long had it been since I really went offline? Sure, I have gone for week long camping and hiking trips where my phone is put on airplane mode, but that has always been followed by instantly posting pictures of the trip to instagram, checking to see what I “missed” on Snapchat, and “catching up” on other social media sites as soon as I got back home and into cell service. Plus, while on adventures and trips my days are filled with activities and spending time with friends where our phones are stored away in our bags and doesn’t really count as removing social media from my actual daily life. Instagram was first created in 2010, and a year later in 2011, I downloaded the app and made my account. I have had instagram since I was 11, meaning that I have been using the app 9 out of the 10 years that it has been around. For 9 straight years I have been scrolling, posting, and liking photos without a second thought. As I read the article, Mod’s words seemed to be talking directly to me, can I sit quietly in a room alone? How many days do I start by turning my phone alarm off and instantly clicking on instagram, checking Snapchat, or scrolling on VSCO? One of the most prominent quotes from Mod’s article was regarding a having a healthy mind and gaining control over our own attention:

“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.”

(Mod, 2018)

I had noticed that over the past couple years it has become increasingly hard for me to focus my own attention while reading (especially for schoolwork) and that almost always, I’d read a paragraph or two and instantly reach down for my phone, go on a social media app, and only then after a couple minutes of scrolling be able to return to my reading. It seemed as if my brain was squirrelly and quickly became restless if I was away from my phone for too long. I was unable to focus on anything other than the idea of checking my instagram or answering a snapchat and wouldn’t be able to think of anything else or read another line until I satisfied the overwhelming urge to check my phone. This often happened throughout other moments in my day too, whether it was while I was riding the bus, sitting in a lecture, or eating a meal, I would find that in moments of stillness, I could not sit with my own mind.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal. Did any of us remember how to sit quietly, alone, without a phone in hand?

(Mod, 2018)

I remember reading the quote above and thinking, “why am I like this?”, “Why can’t I sit through a lecture and not pull out my phone?”, “Why do I seem to always feel the need to be either posting a story or a picture instagram?” And “why do I care so much?”.

Needless to say, I recognized that it was time for a change. After reading the article I reached out to two of my friends and proposed the idea of going “offline” for a month. Obviously neither one of us could go completely offline as our schooling is all online, but we could go off all social media and were excited at the prospect of doing so. We each identified which apps we spent the most time on and over the phone lined up what we were going to cut off during our personal hiatuses. For myself, Instagram had to go. Next was Snapchat, VSCO, and Facebook. These were all the apps I found myself spending the most time on and that I often use to compare myself to others and have not the best for my overall mental health. Starting October 1st until November 1st, myself and two of my friends are logging off/ deleting all of the social media apps that either a) we spend a too much time on or b) have negatively effected our mental well being. In the time that I spend off of social media, I am planning on substituting the time I normally would spend on my phone with journaling each night before I go to bed, going for walks, finishing my book, and hopefully getting more homework done!! Another thing that I hope to accomplish while off of social media is spending more quality time chatting with my roommates. Often, when we’re hanging around the house or eating a meal together our phones are in our hands and our attention is split between the real world and our virtual worlds. I am looking forward to no longer feeling the need to be scrolling through instagram while sitting on the couch and hanging out with my roommates and to give those around me 100% of my attention.

Works cited:
Mod, Craig. “How I Got My Attention Back.” Wired, Conde Nast, 22 Dec. 2018, www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/.

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