Craig Mod wrote an interesting article, “How I Got My Attention Back” about what he went through when being offline for a month. Mod focused on the internal struggle between wanting to choose other ways to use his attention and the need to stay informed about world news through social media. I can certainly relate to this struggle. On the one hand, social media often makes me feel insecure and frustrated. When I see pictures of people sharing the best parts of their lives, I feel jealousy. When I see people sharing hate around the world, I feel angry and insignificant. At the same time, I cannot stand the thought of being ignorant to what is happening around the world politically, socially, environmentally, and economically. I feel as though I would not be able to contribute very much to society if I were not informed on current events, especially in a time where important news is shared daily.
All that being said, I think that I could survive a month offline. In the past, I have gone on week-long trips where I wouldn’t have access to the internet, and I survived just fine. If I were able to do it for a week, I think that I could extend my time offline to a month. I bet at first, I would notice the desire to check my social media, but after putting some distance between myself and the online world, that desire would fade. As I would get into the routine of being offline, it would become easier and easier to use my attention for other things without longing for the internet. I certainly wouldn’t get bored, as I have a “To Read List” that is far too long, as well as great family and friends who are the company I need. I think that the break would be good for my mental health, as I would get to choose what is use my attention for and try to do things that make me happy.
My main concern is what would happen when I returned to the “real world” and used the internet once more. I fear that it would be really easy for me to fall back into the same routine of giving most of my attention to social media, the same way I have returned to my routines after returning from one week away from online activity. My plan would be to focus on where I put my attention by way of self-reflection. If I do not like where my energy is going, I must ask myself why my attention is being drawn there. Then, I must put restrictions on how I access the information that is stealing my attention. For example, if I realize that much of my attention is being wasted on Instagram, I should limit myself to 1 hour of Instagram per day, which is enough to take in important news without getting distracted by other materials. While my current situation does not allow me to forego the Internet for a month, I am interested in trying it out in the summer when school does not stand in my way.