Can You Stop The Scrolling?

trail marker

TLDR: Is this too long to read? Has your focus been stolen?

Here’s the gist: I’m tired of screens stealing my focus. From here on out, I read what I wanna read, buy only what I wanna buy, and talk to actual people IRL. Viva la revolution!

**I started writing this blog in my head two weeks ago but I lost my focus.

After reading Johan Hari’s book, Stolen Focus, I began to notice how screen loitering was taking hours from my day. Mindless scrolling. And I’m not even on social media! (Except for dog videos, of course.)

This problem of not being able to focus has hit every part of my life: writing, working, reading, relationships. All this talk about “being present” doesn’t stand a chance against doomscrolling.

We have history

There’s no need to go research how this started because you can look at your own life. Remember the moment when you realized that Google (I can’t even bring myself to add in AI at this point) could do just about anything for you, answer just about any question? How fun to pull it out at dinner and settle an argument.

Now, the arguments at my house are about having the phone out on the table in the first place.

Yes, I know. You can point to so many amazing and wonderful accomplishments that the internet has made possible, like medical breakthroughs and finding long-lost relatives.

But on a day-by-day basis, are we better off?

Is humanity any better off? It would be easy to argue that things are worse, way worse. Far away wars are now in our homes. The horrible misfortunes of people we will never know show up in our feeds . Someone else’s fears or fights become our own whether or not we really care about them. Because eyeballs equate to dollars on the Internet, conflict must rage to keep us reading.

What to do?

Like losing weight, dropping pounds from the Internet is not just a matter of internal willpower. It matters what is physically within reach. If I have chocolate in the pantry and little pieces of salami in the fridge then that is what I will reach for when I need a nosh. If I only had yogurt and fruit, then that is what I would reach for because that is all that is available.

I have pens, notebooks, paints, and all manner of interesting artist tools scattered throughout my house. I am never further than 10 feet from a book. Yet, it’s the phone that comes out of my pocket. There is always time to read stupid fake news articles or look through Netflix once again for something interesting to watch. But these days I have to ask: why bother since I don’t have the focus to watch a whole TV series.

Detox  or Total Reset?

You can tell from my rambling that I do not have an answer for you. I am feeling quite despondent, actually. Energized after reading Hari’s book, I was feeling a bit full of myself because I am now in the know about how the Internet and the people who run it are stealing hours from my life.

Yet, after a few days of self righteousness, I am back where I started. No focus or energy to pick up anything heavier than my phone.

Is it all gloom and doom?

Some days it sure feels like it. But when I can pull together the energy to organize a coffee date or a dinner party, I remember what life used to be like when people in the same room talked to each other. Just last week I had coffee with someone I met once ten years ago and wasn’t sure we’d have much to talk about. But two hours and many stories later, we looked at our watches and realized that we had just scratched the surface of shared interests.

That is the type of connection and inspiration I crave. The interwebs are not providing this so I am going old school and talking to people, having actual unscripted conversations so I can fully focus on what they have to say and the stories they have to share.

Taking it to work

I started my new program, Narrative Directions, because I want to foment these types of real conversations in business because without them, there is little way to truly change the world.

Like all of my work, this program focuses on stories and how small business owners and social impact leaders can use their own, true stories to make deep connections with others. Sometimes they may want to share a story in order to persuade a customer. Other times it may be just to build a relationship.

A story–even one you tell over and over again–can be like a walk in the woods.

We may all take the same hike, but we tune in to different things and have different experiences. This trail marker with a red diamond points to the prairie while the blue circle marker will take us to the river. As we walk toward the next marker, we note different trees and colors and scents. Each of us experiences the wood differently as we step over fallen branches or hear the satisfying crunch of leaves under our feet. Our minds can wander and our imaginations can run wild.

Why am I always blabbing on about stories? In life and in business, I believe that if we stop and pay attention to one story at a time, learn to focus on the person standing in front of us, then a true exchange of ideas can take place. One story begets a second story giving us the chance to know one another rather than settle for sitting in front of screen believing that SEO data or TikTok will point the way to truth.

We need stories and conversation to give us courage to follow the red diamond today and see what the blue circle has to offer tomorrow…all with an open mind and keen senses, ready to welcome what the trail has to offer.

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