What Distracts You
The anatomy of social media addiction.
A rule of thumb I use to assess my life is to look at what distracts me. If I’m distracted by something trivial in the middle of doing something I think is important, then that’s a problem.
If you’re doing something you consider work, or even your passion, and you get an impulse to check Twitter, then you’re probably not passionate about what you were doing.
Judging yourself based on what distracts you is reliable because it’s inevitably honest. It happens pre-consciously—after all, that’s what distraction is.
People mistakenly think their persistence or determination signal who they are and what they’re made of, but if you’re sacrificing yourself with late hours and a ramen regimen, this could just be your indignation acting up. And people love their persecution complexes.
Dorks notoriously clog up Slate, Salon, and Huffington Post with cries about the perils of social media addiction. This makes sense. If I wrote for any of these content farms, I’d be distracted too. I’d sense, maybe not consciously, the vapidity and futility of my work. In the midst of writing two articles—one making fun of Kim Kardashian, and the other lamenting the state of a culture that would let Kim Kardashian be famous—I’d be blindsided by Facebook, too. At that point, Facebook is a godsend. Looking at wedding pictures from that one girl you sat next to in tenth grade biology is fascinating when you’re unenthusiastic about your life.
It’s taken as a given that there are too many distractions in our lives. But I don’t think there are enough distractions. If you were living on the American prairie in the 19th Century, you would never truly know what you’re interested in because everything seems interesting compared to staring at the Kansas horizon.
However, when porn is always two clicks away, you’re in a better position to know what’s really going on inside of you. If the mere pixels of boobs derail your mission, then it’s not your mission. It’s somebody else’s mission, or a mission that sounds good so you will be accepted at cocktail parties.