It’s well known that distraction can be a hazard of working online. Some of these distractions are work-related. The average worker, for example, spends about six hours every day on email. So if you’re trying to finalize a project for the new year, email may not seem like a horrendous distraction. After all, it’s part of work.
Email takes up about 6 hours per day, and can be distracting for many people.
But researchers have estimated that people who are interrupted from a specific project by online email or texts don’t return to the project until an average of 25 minutes has elapsed. That’s a lot of lost productivity.
Working Online Can Lead to Distraction
But others are not work-related. For many people, the very space that enables their work and projects — the screen — is also the very space that provides an unbelievable number of potential distractions. Many people decide to look briefly at the news or check in on a social media channel like Instagram or Facebook and lose hours they didn’t plan to spend.
The problem is exacerbated by algorithms, of course. Places you’ve visited online want to lure you back with content they are betting you’ll be interested in, leading to ads or banners with more of the same content or similar.
Internet distraction is a very real problem. Several years ago, Stanford researchers studied a group of steady online surfers and compared them with people who spent far less time online. At the time, as Inc. points out, surfing the web was thought to both reflect and activate intelligence and curiosity.
Well, not so. The first group had marked difficulty controlling their attention compared to the second and were far less able to focus. They were also notably less able to distinguish relevant information from trivial information.
An Extension That Turns the Internet Off
And so it comes to pass in technology news that someone has invented an extension called Nothing on the Internet to fight against internet distraction.
When downloaded and activated, Nothing on the Internet shows a blank screen.
The intention, according to Fast Company, was to find a way to turn off the distractions of the internet. No more daily burble luring the susceptible to see what was happening now, in current events, relationship status, memes, and more.
It was also intended, according to the designer, to fight against algorithms, at least mentally, by simply turning the internet off for a while: no internet, no pursuit by machine intelligence.
Partly, too, the extension is a piece of conceptual art. The makers also developed a project that looks like a newspaper, but contains no news.
The idea, though, is a worthy one. As the developer told Fast Company, it establishes a peaceful space for people who have trouble — or want support in — turning the internet off.
Now, there are other ways to turn the internet off if you need to work online, of course. One is to choose a home page that’s calm and restful, and to return to it after specific sites.
Another is to check e-mail, social media, and texts — potential distractors — at set intervals. Many researchers, for example, are told to check these areas for set amounts of minutes at the beginning, middle, and end of the day. They are to respond only to priorities and not swerve from objectives.
Both these methods will work. But Nothing on the Internet may serve as a useful adjunct for many people in our distracted age.