How “The Shallows” book by Nicholas Carr helped me to realize why I actually cannot multitask

Author: Hana Kazazović

My first offline experiment was about seven years ago. I tried to spend 15 days without internet.  I started to notice changes in my behavior very soon after I fell in love with social networks. At that time, I knew nothing about it. I felt that I have to make the extra effort to concentrate.  Already then, at the beginning of my “social network life”, I experienced trouble with finding peace in my mind.

After that experiment, I realized that my life had changed. That was the beginning of my exploring with social networks. I love them and used them to improve my business and blogging. I also began to work as a community manager. Social networks helped me to connect with people of the same interest. This is the most significant reason why I like the Internet.  At the same time, I continued struggling with the effects of overusing social networks.

Did I use them too much? Sure, but who didn’t?  Who did not have a need to find out what our friends say about our last Facebook status or how many likes we have in that photo? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ (yes, I know…), LinkedIn… I have the profile on each of them. I read every advice on how to use social networks.  And I did not notice when I started to read texts about their impact on our lives.

The advice was to turn off notifications on the phone, so I did it. It was two years ago and that was one of my better moves.  That freed some space in my mind, but not enough.  I still kept looking into my profiles more often than I wanted. So the next move was to delete some apps from my phone and start using social networks only from my laptop.  Only Instagram made problems, so I find a solution – deleting and setting up the app every day.  Sometimes I did it a couple of times in a daytime, usually when I have inspiration for photos or to say something. Very important, of course. Yes, that popularity of Instagram stories did not help me at all.

At the beginning of the last December, I felt overwhelmed. I had felt like I am thirsty, but instead of drinking from the tap somebody puts me under the waterfall. That was the feeling in my mind and I knew I had to do something.

I know you want to ask me why I already did not delete some of my social network profiles. And I have to say that it is not my fault. My friends from all profiles that are guilty. They use different social networks. I have some of them only on Facebook or on Twitter, and some of my favorites use only Instagram. I can be very persuasive, but that cannot help me to force them to leave the Twitter because I want them on Instagram.  Trust me, or you can try to persuade someone as well.

I’ve decided to take some time off.

My first wish was to go somewhere without the Internet. The only option was to go to the mountains and it is winter and I do not like cold, so I leave that idea for some warmer time. I temporary deactivated Twitter profile and deleted all social network apps from the phone. Then I found the way to block the chosen sites on the computer, and my online detoxification began.

Yes, there were times, especially at the beginning, when I asked myself what to do now. I have extra free time, so I began reading more books. One of the first was “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr.  This book helped me to understand everything that I felt since I began using the Internet more than 2 hours a day.

The first term that I found important was the fear of invisibility.  Many people today experience this fear. Social networks create the feeling that if you do not have any activity online – you do not exist.  We got used for notifications and they are telling us “Yes, we notice you, we understand you, we like you”.  When we did not get notifications we feel invisible and we think people will forget that we live. It is not enough if our closest friends and family call us.  We have already linked up our value with the number of likes and comments. And that changed us already.  Each one can find out for ourselves whether we have become better.

The second knowing from this book was something Nietzsche said a long time ago:

“Our writing equipment takes part in the forming our thoughts”

He noticed this when he started writing on the typewriter. His writing became different from handwriting. There were some experiments which came to the same conclusion – the Internet changes our thinking and behavior.

The next interesting information was about our working memory. I learned that our working memory can only have 7 ideas in mind at the same time.  And when we try to put some more in our brain we have troubles.  Nicholas said this is like we are attempting to fill a bathtub with a thimble.  Yes, that is why I had a feeling like I was drinking water from the falls.

That is why “the shallow” is the name of the book. The Internet forces us to split our attention and we can only follow things superficially.  The more we use the Internet, the more we train our minds to be distracted. That is why we hardly concentrate when we are not an online – our brain practiced forgetting, and decided to remember.

The essence of the Internet was created by psychology, not only by programmers.

I cannot explain this in details, so I recommend you to read this book.  It can assist you to understand some things better and maybe to organize your life in a different way.

It helped me.  After almost the whole offline month I realized who are the people I want to observe and stay connected with.  Yes, that are ones I can remember after 20 days and type their nicknames to find what they wrote while I was missing.  I did not find out how to get rid of the whole noise.  Reducing the number of people who I follow and spending only a brace of hours a day on social networks help. But that does not solve the whole problem.  It seems to me I will have to replicate this experiment often. Maybe I will try that mountain offline idea in the summer, with some shepherd lookalike style.

But even the knowing all this is helpful because I now know that it is not my fault.  It is good to know I am not alone in these views.  It is not comfortable to leave my online life because that would be like I am leaving the half of my life.  Everything is so intertwined and a bunch of my friends and people who I like to read and follow live on my computer.

How about you all? Have you ever thought about social networks in this way?

Post Author: Hana Kazazovic

Believe in perseverance and positive attitude. Huge book worm, nature lover and tea drinker. True believer in the Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

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