In The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Carr explains that “the net seizes our attention only to scatter it” (p.116). One of the best examples of this can be found in our daily routine of pausing work to check our inbox for new emails.
I found myself wondering how much time is actually spent in this dance between completing the task at hand and pondering what new message might be waiting for me. So, I decided to keep track of how many times I checked my inbox in one hour.
Brace yourself: In one hour, I checked my inbox 16 times. If we assume each email check – which includes pausing the task at hand, opening the mail application, then turning back to and refocusing on the previous task – took up at least a minute, I am spending a total of 2.13 hours in an 8 hour work day participating in hurried and distracted thinking. Thus, almost a third of my workday is shaped by what Carr calls a dependance on the Internet’s high-speed delivery of responses and rewards.
Additionally, while writing this blog post I stopped four times to write to a coworker on instant messenger (not work related), three times to check my email (yes I am still doing that), and once to watch this all-male version of Beyonce’s new “7/11” music video that includes a liberal use of kale – which a friend had said was necessary to do before proceeding with my day (she was right).