March 2019 · 600 words · 3 minute read

I am a distracted individual, buffeted by the winds of my surroundings. Concentration is hard for me most of the time. I get jittery and anxious frequently. I am overstimulated. From time to time I get depressed. Unfortunately, it seems that I wasn’t born with highly stable brain chemistry.

Last night I was up until midnight mindlessly browsing websites on my phone. I know it’s not good for me but sometimes I binge and the fallout can be severe. I cannot have apps on my phone as I simply cannot stop myself from checking them, even if there are no notifications. I have my own personal skinner box and I’m desperately searching for that variable reward.

I have come a long way from where I used to be. Now, I am aware of the problem, I try to manage it, restricting access to certain sites and apps at all times. I no longer have Facebook or Instagram as a result. They suck away too much of my life and I don’t want to live my life through some body else’s experience.

It’s hard at times. Late at night, all alone, the struggle within my mind becomes violent. Either way, the cost is high. If the distraction monster wins then I feel guilt and lose the hours of my life that I’ll never get back. If the disciplined rational entity wins then I’m exhausted by the battle of wills.

The websites themselves aren’t the problem. I’m hunting for distractions to deflect my attention away from my own problems and away from what I know I really need to do. Yet, I want to distract myself for a moment so why do I only “wake up” hours later. Just one more video, one more picture, one more meme. Just one more. It’s a never ending smorgasbord of content which, over time, I have directly tailored to my own interests. Huxley was wrong. Society doesn’t have one generalised form of bliss it has an infinite set, each perfectly tailored to a particular individual at a particular time and place.

I have no defence or strategy. This is not a message of hope. This is a confession.

I wonder when I look around at others if I am alone in my thoughts. They seem perfectly happy to be wearing out their finger prints on the endless glass treadmill. Is it just me who has the problem here? Is it just me who experiences the addictive properties and realises the toll that it is taking?

I find that meditation helps. Writing helps. Cooking helps. Working helps. Socialising helps. Consistency helps. Exercise helps. Sleep helps.

I need to be able to lose myself in what I am doing, to find myself hours later and filled with that exhilarating feeling of creation. That helps.

I know all the things that help. I know all of the strategies. I am well armed. But I still lose the battle from time to time.

The most lethal weapon against my concentration is my own mobile phone. It’s always there, always within arms reach. I check it constantly. Desktop computers don’t seem to have the same problem. I associate them with working, not with procrastinating. My phone… Well, I see a lot of merit in the “dumb phone” movement as a worthwhile strategy.

Today is a new day with new challenges. Tomorrow will be different again. I just need to keep fighting.