Throughout our history there have always been distractions, and our minds are constantly drawn to diversion. But – the Internet – the grand purveyor of distracting delights is the ultimate sideliner. Just look around, everywhere people are glued to a device. Staying focused on tasks that require more than checking and posting status updates with our omnipresent tech buddies can truly become a struggle.”The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” writes Nicholas Carr in his fascinating book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. He postures that, “we willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”

And if we look at the very makeup of addiction – the unyielding pull of a substance or activity that becomes so obsessive it ultimately interferes with everyday life – then nearly everyone I know is addicted in some capacity to the Internet. It has quintessentially replaced work itself, as our most socially endorsed and accepted addiction.

Who hasn’t been reading a great article, only to stop and peruse email, check out a ping or see what could be waiting behind one of those tiny red number dots attached to our apps? Red dots that are driven by online aficionados like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn (and the like), who are making products so compelling, pervasive and persuasive that people can’t stop using them. And apparently, less than 15 percent of us smartphone-wielding, laptop trudging folk ever bother to adjust our notification settings, which means the majority of us simply default to the app creator’s every whim, ping, and push. No, these products aren’t addictive by chance – it’s by design.

Our personal technology is indeed more engaging than ever, often helping us to procrastinate or downright escape doing something we’d rather not be doing, and even allowing us to place ourselves someplace we’d rather be – with the Internet, we can port ourselves anywhere.

In our not so on-demand past, we received the TV guide, pink phone call notifications or the agenda for the day at work, and then used our own common sense and independent choices (within this admittedly set and inflexible framework) to guide our very own decision-making about how we came to spend the hours in the day.

Today, we believe wholeheartedly we’re making these same choices…. but are we really? Have we become unwitting passengers instead of drivers when it comes to our own time management? The journey to where we are today has been smooth and gradual, and perhaps we didn’t notice when we slipped effortlessly into the back seat of the car. Sorry, gotta go… need to check into a new red dot that’s beckoning…


Michael Chase, CMO
St. Joseph Communications