How I Got My Attention Back

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For twenty-eight days this winter I lived on the grounds of an old estate down in central Virginia, next to a town called — terrifyingly — Lynchburg, making good on a residency I had been offered by the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. I had done other residencies before, and knew in order to eke out maximum productivity, internet disconnection was nonnegotiable. And so it began, the day after the election: my month without the internet.

It felt like a cop-out—like I wasn’t allowed to escape the “real world” so easily. But the quieter my mind became, and the deeper I went into my own work, the more I realized how my always-on, always-connected state had rendered me largely useless.

“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? I certainly didn’t. By the time the curtain closed on act one of our political tragedy, if there was action to be taken, I was in no state to take it. I had long since lost control of my attention.

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What Really Happens To Your Brain And Body During A Digital Detox

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Better Posture, Deeper Friendships
After three days without technology, people’s posture noticeably changed. They began to adapt to primarily looking forward into people’s eyes, rather than downward into their screens. This opened up the front of their bodies, pushing back their shoulders and realigning the back of their head with the spine…

Google Is A Conversation Killer
The content of conversations changed when people were without technology. In a connected world, when a general trivia question comes up, people immediately Google the answer, ending that particular line of questioning. However, without Google, people keep talking as they look for an answer, which often results in creative storytelling or hilarious guessing games that lead to new inside jokes…

More-Efficient Sleep
The guests on the trip said that they did not have to sleep as long, but felt even more rested and rejuvenated. The neuroscientists believe this is because the blue light from screens suppresses melatonin in the body, which makes us more alert as we are going to sleep. Studies show that people who check their phone before going to sleep—and, let’s face it, that’s most of us—don’t get particularly high-quality rest.

New Perspectives
One of the most powerful findings was that people tended to make significant changes to their lives when they were offline for a while. Some decided to make big changes in their career or relationships, while others decided to recommit to health and fitness. The lack of constant distraction appeared to free people’s minds to contemplate more important issues in their lives, and it also made them believe they had the willpower to sustain a transformation…

 

My Month Without The Internet

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We have all accepted that eating well and exercising are important to be in great physical shape. We’re now also starting to take better care of our minds by managing our attention. Our own attention is a scarce commodity. Where we focus our attention is how we feed our minds. Going offline helps to clear things up a bit more for me. So in 2015, I completed my second transatlantic sailing trip.

Disengaging with your current mind-set and existing habits, such as checking our phones, takes time — it took me three to five days to start feeling disconnected from my day-to-day activities, even with the sailing keeping us crazy busy.

Going offline trains your attention by allowing you to only react to the information you currently have — with no addition from the external world. It’s the opposite of getting notifications.

Going back to work after a monthlong disconnected trip is something I’m very grateful for: It felt amazing and refreshing. The experience helped me have a gut-check of how everything felt to me and identify what projects and activities excites me most. When I got back, I made sure to start focusing on tasks that I enjoyed more, and on which I could have the most impact. Going offline was also great for my creativity. On most mornings, around 5 a.m., we would use our headlamps to write thoughts and ideas on paper — it helped me come up with new thoughts and business ideas.

The terrible video game of life is showing off on social media

Video: The terrible video game of life is showing off on social media

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And that’s totally how life today seems like sometimes. We didn’t actually do something unless Facebook saw it. Followers are more tangible than friendships. Experiences and adventures aren’t complete without capital-L likes. It’s sad because it’s true for so many people.

So screw it. Don’t play the video game that’s showing off on social media. Don’t slave over the follower count and like button. Just live your life and enjoy it while you can.

How to Meet an Online Friend in Real Life Without It Being Awkward

How to Meet an Online Friend in Real Life Without It Being Awkward

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…somehow, meeting someone you know online platonically has become a far more awkward endeavor than a random OKCupid date. You know her but you dont know her. Do you shake hands? Do you hug? Do you do that open-palmed half-wave? God forbid she goes for the hug and you go for the handshake like you’re in some jerking, uncoordinated, chest-poking dance.