I just read two articles on Medium that made me want to write this, share my own opinion and reflect. Both of them by the same author. Both of them in a very similar tone, also something I heard before.
What I heard/read before was about the sacrifices one makes to lead an extraordinary life, and how most people are not willing to pay the price. That one really got to me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it consciously and subconsciously.
The Distracted Society
One thing I noticed though is that many people they have their grand visions, but they are too distracted to consider what it would take to make those visions a reality, and even more distracted when it comes to taking action.
For many years I have been sheltered by the bubble of university education, most people around me had ambitions and were working towards them, even more so when I started studying at Umeå Institute of Design. But outside of that education bubble people who I would meet, be it through online communities, games or dating would not have those traits at all. My most reliable insight on that is from dating, as creating a more personal link with someone gives you access to observing their life and behavior. Very often I would hear people talking about their grand visions, things they want to achieve, and when I tried to encourage them to take action, support them in fulfilling their vision, I’d get passive resistance of “yeah, but”, “I’ll do it tomorrow”, “I’m too busy now”. And then proceed to observe them as they browse imgur, entertainment articles, watching “pointless” videos on youtube. I quickly grew frustrated of that, and least to say none of the dating worked out. But funnily enough, mostly on account on me “being too annoying” trying to motivate them to make changes to their lives.
Some people from online communities I wasn’t deeply involved with, I just decided not to bother with after a while, seeing how they disregard my advice and proceed on the same cycle as they’ve been for a long time.
Then I realized that the bubble I was in wasn’t “the norm”. And I do see myself as someone who can achieve extraordinary things. I limit the distraction. I do things on purpose. Most things I decide to spend a meaningful chunk of my time, I give them my 100% of attention. (Just as I’m writing this, I don’t read or watch other things, I have my phone on mute, I have complete silence around me).
Thankfully, I’ve always been this way, it’s not something I had to learn, just something I had to improve. And there was a time when I became distracted too, a very painful and hard time, but I finally found my way back to focus.
As I was recovering from the distractions and the unhappy place, I decided to disable all the notifications from facebook, instagram, email, whatsapp basically all that could send notifications except for calendar. I haven’t turned them back on since. When I check my email, I allocate time to it, I don’t let it distract me in the middle of something else. Sure, I miss some messages sometimes, but it’s never too much of an issue if I reply a few hours or a day late. Facebook is the master of notifications and distractions. Ever since I turned off notification, my facebook time got severely cut down. From spending half the day there scrolling the feed just “by the way” I visit it once a day or even less often. I don’t miss it at all.
The Focus Trade-offs
If I’m focusing on something, I really require silence. It’s challenging though. That often means giving up social context. For example, I would love to stay in the studio during the day and talk with my classmates be in their surrounding, but the constant chatter distracts me, so I seek a silent space, both away from people I want to have about me and people I don’t want to have around me, that means working late evenings/nights or finding a different room.
When I started playing League of Legends some years ago, sometimes I would find nice group to play with, they’d invite me to a discord channel. I would love to chat with them and form bonds with fellow players, but my game performance drops drastically, and I’m frustrated at how distracted I get, because they usually talk all the time, not just communicate necessary game information, and I have hard time focusing on the game while also trying to listen for the important information.
Another trade-off is that I have hard time being around chaotic and distracted people, which mostly limits my dating options, but also friendships. I can’t stand that complaining and lack of action. Those people have no place in my life.
I also have to face my visions, and sometimes let them go. For example, I’ve tried to pick up learning to play the guitar a couple of times. Every so often I get a burst of motivation, making me thing I can do it, but it never lasts more than a month at most. Deep down I know playing guitar is not truly what I want to do, not at this moment at least, it’s always “it would be cool if I could”. So instead I decide to let go of that vision and focus my time on something else.
I love video games. I’ve loved them since I started with Devil May Cry 3 around 10 years ago. They became my passion. It was so easy to be 100% in the game, which falls so well with my 100% focus personality. I don’t think I would ever describe my game time as “escaping reality”, no, it was a meaningful time between me and the game. We all need entertainment and relaxation, games are really good at that, and they have the added benefit of making our brain works and training the neural connections. (Yeah, gamers are smart people!)
Personally, I have hard time playing video games when I’m distressed, upset, distracted. I want to play them to fully experience the world and challenge myself to conquer whatever lies in that world, and I can’t do that when I can’t allow myself to be 100% there.
But, again, that’s not how it is for most people. Many people play games as a momentary remedy, to distract themselves from more important matters (I’m guilty of that too sometimes), to deal with the frustrations from the day. They hope the game to immerse their mind fully, but that doesn’t always happen. That’s especially visible in the case of League of Legends (in my case, or otherwise any multiplayer game), seeing how people interact and what level of performance they display, that’s highly dependent on their ability to block out distractions and past experiences.
Seeing how differently I treat games from other people, made me question whether I want to work in the industry and contribute to the distraction of entertainment. For the last years I saw entertainment as deliberate action to relax or stimulate oneself, not as a momentary distraction or escape from real life obligations. I love games, I would love to work on creating games, but I have to face the ethical personal choice of contributing to helping people find distraction. And last thing I would like to do is an “anti-distraction” game that’s having an educational application.
Is there any way to stop the distractions? Help people focus and introspect more, help them find what truly drives them and devise a plan to make that happen.
(Now, I was so into writing it I didn’t realize how horribly hungry I’ve become!)