Stolen Focus Summer Challenge?
+ The Writing Disability Panel Replay and #1000Words of Summer (98,000 if you're crazy)
Summer is upon us and that usually means spending more time outside, but I sense for many, this won’t actually happen. We stay pressed to our phone screens year-round, scanning, swiping, clicking, rarely smiling, never smelling the honeysuckle, but possibly watching it shimmer in an IG reel between the manicured fingers of a beautiful woman. Ocean waves crash to a Taylor Swift Song from a tiny device we clutch as we poop, and podcasts and vodcasts replace conversations with real friends.
Though perhaps I only feel this way because I’m in South Florida and summer here really is insufferable, far too hot, with constant rain, viscous swarms of mosquitos, and pollen-drenched humidity that makes me sneeze every time I step outside. Or maybe it’s the strange new dystopian Apple ad campaign billboards that glower over the highways of Miami, where the model’s face is entirely covered by their iPhone. Are they in your city too?
Privacy? Or complete control?
Why not get used to having a computer strapped to your eyeballs is literally the message Apple wants you to absorb. (Ok, I kind of want this too, allow me to confess, but therein lies the problem…)
And I suspect that even in temperate, more pleasant summer cities, screen time doesn’t really diminish seasonally. Screen time is designed only to increase. Johann Hari writes about this in the book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again. I read it this winter, but I’m still thinking about this important book, and about my social media habits. Though Hari focuses more on the consumption of social media than the creation of content, he explores our troubled relationship as a society with mobile apps, beginning with his struggles to even buy a cell phone without apps.
Like Hari, I frequently register the problematic nature of social media and I occasionally delete the apps only to redownload them later. I tell myself that my use is not as problematic as some folks; I’m not on Twitter night and day, and I rarely look at Facebook, but I suspect the apps are mostly a waste of time with possibly more negative than positive effects on my brain. I think they also reduce my ability to focus on the reality of my immediate surroundings, which is a weird, but true thing to realize.
So, I thought about hosting a “Stolen Focus Summer Challenge,” where I’d urge everyone to join me in pledging the deletion of their top three biggest social media time sucks for the entire summer.
However, I can’t bring myself to host this challenge because I myself am afraid to participate… I sort of don’t want to… I feel internal resistance. I miss the apps when they’re gone…
Yet, as apps suck more and more of our time away, they also seem to suck more in general. No one thinks they’re great or getting better. It really is like cocaine—fun until it isn’t, and in no way healthy for you.
What are your top three app distractions?
For me, it’s Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, though YouTube is not purely social and can be more educational, but still… not really healthy and definitely a distraction with the strong potential for brainwashing.
Summer should be for friends, family, beaches, BBQs, kisses, mango ice cream, and burnt shoulders, not for YouTube Shorts or TikTok time warps.
Not only that, but I’ve seen social media have a detrimental effect on my loved ones, especially Facebook and Twitter. We are led into conflicts and captured by the extreme political and cultural viewpoints presented on these apps. I’ve experienced real-life interpersonal turmoil several times, directly related to social media consumption.
Social media makes people angry and insecure, for sure, and according to Hari’s research, also depressed, distracted, and lonely. There is a compulsive, never-ending element akin to an all-you-can-eat buffet where you never actually get to eat. You just keep circling in line, circling, circling, looking at different food.
Plus, my teenager would definitely rather watch YouTube than eat dinner with me. Not that I blame her, I’m sure I’d be the same if I were 15 today, or worse. Thank God I didn’t have an iPhone or Instagram or TikTok or OnlyFans when I was a teen… and my women friends feel the same way, yet here we are using these devices and letting our kids use them.
But, but, but.. we say… There are POSITIVE things about social media.
Of course. We communicate and meet people on these apps and stay in touch with friends, but they aren’t as straightforward as grandma’s old landline telephone, and if we can’t stop using them, even when we want to, isn’t that an addiction? And doesn’t it seem like everyone’s addiction is getting worse?
Though most of us know at least one person who doesn’t use social media at all, and I’m inspired by writer, who deleted IG, FB, and Twitter (though she kept Tik Tok). Donna Tartt doesn’t do social media either. Many of us certainly went years and years of our lives without it, yet… yet… yet…
The majority of people on Earth use social media.
Anyway, I digress.
Would you consider doing the Stolen Focus Sumer Challenge and deleting your top three most used social media apps? Or even one app for all of summer? *Summer is 93 days from June 21 to Sept 23rd.
I’m really on the fence. I’m sure it would be good for me, but like cutting out sugar, it sounds HARD.
*Challenge or not, I’ve decided to loan my audiobook copy of Stolen Focus to my paid Lagoon supporters until the last day of summer, and you can find that loaner copy link below. Do with it what you will. I think it’s such an important book.
Thoughts to consider… I also like what Elle Griffen said about why she left Instagram especially. To summarize, she said:
Not helpful in the pursuit of being a successful writer
Hurt my social life
Made me be on my phone even more
I would add that Instagram especially forces you to perform and consume things against your will, see weird ads designed to make you feel a sense of lacking, and can spark negative emotions, FOMO, and comparison-misery. I think IG is the worst of them all.
Still, like any addict, my feelings are mixed and I’m sure some folks reading this discovered my writing via Instagram, so I thank you and the platform for that. Again, it’s a complicated situation.
Speaking of Challenges
All that being said, perhaps the anecdote to stolen focus from apps is hyper-focus on creative endeavors. So, in pursuit of a flow state vs distraction-paralysis, the challenge I will do for sure is the #1,000words of Summer challenge which starts this Saturday, June 17th, led by writer. This is the 6th year she’s hosted the challenge and the goal is to write 1,000 words every day for two weeks, from June 17th-30th. You can learn more here.
Because I am an irrational over-achiever who can’t not be extra, I’m pushing myself to do 1,000 words every day for ALL OF SUMMER, and hopefully, those words will get me to the end of the first draft of the 3rd book in my Psychedelic Love Series trilogy, which I haven’t decided on the title of that book yet, but that’s the plan. So from June 17th to Sept 23rd, the last day of summer. That is 98 days, so 98,000 words, which technically would be enough words for two shorter novels… Or, more likely, one overwritten novel that I’ll then need to widdle down.
Doesn’t take a neurologist to see that the hypothetical Stolen Focus Summer Challenge would definitely pair well with the #1000Words of Summer Challenge… I could 100% write 1,000 words every day just using the time I spend on Ig/Twitter/Youtube. I bet many could. But will we? Let’s see what happens.
I also want the tank made for the challenge. So fun. And she has coffee mugs, plus t-shirts and more color choices.
There is a Slack too for the challenge that Jami Attenberg set up, though not sure I will do that part since I’m trying to cut down screen time, but maybe. Solidarity with other writers is always fun.
Anyone else participating in 1,000 Words of Summer? Let me know!
Maybe one day I’ll be as organized as Attenberg and will do a proper Stolen Focus Summer Challenge with T-shirts and koozies featuring bleeding eyeballs.
And, onto some administrative matters—tomorrow, June 15th will be the last Writers’ Support Group gathering before we break for the summer, which we’ve done every year. We will resume meetings on Aug 17th. This break is designed to get us off our screens more and to enjoy the long summer days. Lord knows writers spend too much time in front of computers.
My Lagoon, however, will continue as usual during summer with weekly writings, just the in-person writers’ support group weekly meetings go on pause.
Also, for my paid Lagoon supporters please find the Writing and Disability panel replay and my loaner copy of the Stolen Focus audiobook below. I have no idea if this is legal to loan out books temporarily like this, but I feel like it’s ok. I don’t have THAT many paid subscribers, and I already bought multiple copies of the book in different formats for myself and to give to friends. AND it’s for a good cause. But, if you can afford to purchase the book, please do so.
Thanks for reading this far!
Thanks for reading the free version of Charlotte Dune’s Lagoon. The paid version is cheaper than a martini and way better for your brain. It’s a variety publication and video podcast for cool people who refuse to niche. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
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