Spurred by a pandemic, almost every kind of work is moving online, including the work of getting an education. Called “Chrome schoolers,” students in the 2020s are always plugged in, owing to the ubiquity of light, cheap laptop computers that run cloud software, allowing a student access to the digital world for as little as US$400 (sometimes much cheaper if bought by an educational institution.) Kids are becoming computer literate in primary school, but neither remote workers nor students are getting the proper training to deal with the dangers of a near-total digital life.
The web has connected people, work, and learning… but to be productive, one must “disconnect” and focus, a skill many are having serious trouble with. Perhaps another tool can help. Workers and students are turning to blocking apps as they provide freedom through restriction. That may sound like some faux mystical ‘wisdom’ but the logic is sound. When you know you don’t can’t do anything but study or work, it’s liberating. The app syncs across all your devices and provides cross browser blocking – one app keeping you focused… whether you’re using Chrome, Edge, or Firefox. The idea is that you set your own limitations. You could – for example – block the entire internet for two hours each workday morning if you choose. Or you could block out social media from 10 am to 5 pm… the choices are yours.
Training Ourselves to Concentrate is Possible – Especially with the Right Tools
Some have dubbed our current era “The Information Age,” and it’s a fitting term. People who grew up just 40 years ago find it hard to wrap their heads around the vast amounts of information that is now available at the proverbial “click.” But the humans doing that clicking have yet to undergo any major upgrades. We’re still powered by brains that evolved to deal with life as hunter-gathers. Our “talking ape” brains are not equipped to handle the overload of information we pump into it daily. There is good news, however. Our brains and our habits can be trained. A tool such as a blocking app is the modern-day equivalent of a sharpened spear versus just a big stick… a smarter, more direct way to get what you want.
There are also special features that come with such apps…work timers, scheduling help, and sometimes even the option to kill non-essential email distractions with a polite “I’m sorry, but I’ll only be able to respond after work” message. Of course, pop-ups and other ad intrusions are also swatted away by a blocking app. As screens, devices, and digital media continues to become embedded into nearly every aspect of our lives, we’d all do well to learn how to control these amazing tech tools. A good first step is to set limits – which is what a blocking app is all about.
Block Out Distractions, and Keep “Tech Addiction” at Bay
It’s interesting to note that tech or web addiction is perhaps the only addiction that doesn’t carry a genuine stigma. Tell someone you’re addicted to some substance or you’re trying to give up smoking, for example, and you get sympathetic comments and encouragement. Tell a friend “I’m completely addicted to a pop-the-bubbles game” or “I just can’t get off a social media site,” and they’ll just roll their eyes at you. –That’s it. No lecture, no intervention, no “AA” meetings. Tech and digital media addiction, however, is a serious threat that has the potential over this century to surpass other “traditional” addictions. Already we find children, young people, and full-grown adults who rarely leave their homes and spend the majority of their lives online. As augmented reality becomes an affordable reality, the problem will only grow. Why walk through a museum when you can do so virtually? Why go to a concert when you can put on some fancy goggles and experience it that way? Heck, why go outside at all? This might all sound a bit hyperbolic but it’s perhaps not that far from the “reality” we will face in the not-too-distant future.
We need to learn to block out the noise so we can hear ourselves think. A blocking app can give you total freedom from the digital world for a few hours each day for reading, studying, or working. Or it can be used in concert with the web, but act as a guide to keep you focused. Some get lost in social media, others get distracted with sports news… you know yourself, so you set the boundaries. If you forget and try to access one of your blocked sites, you get a cute, “nudging” message – “Nice Try! Get Back to Work!” –It sounds simplistic, but it’s often exactly what you need to get back to the job at hand. Why even bother trying to “fight temptation?” –Blocking is a more effective strategy.