The Attention Experiment: Part 1, Pulling Back

One week ago, I started a great experiment. 

I’m trying to answer this question: how do I regain control of what I pay attention to?

It’s not a “digital detox,” where I swear off all things electronic for a month or a year. I’m not moving to Opt Out Village. I like my digital interactions too much for that.

Instead, it’s a recognition that I’ve slowly and incrementally developed a dissatisfying if not unhealthy relationship to big parts of the digital world–that is, the world I experience via the internet, it all its forms. I want to reinvent and reimagine what I pay attention to in this world. I want to pull back, soften my focus, and see what I’ve been missing.

Barn near Fobes Ebey Slough Dike Road

Why now? Because my break from my longtime workplace provides me with a great opportunity: all the communications and connections that came to me via “tomp@mediapro.com” are now gone! Whoopee! I don’t have to pay attention to all things cybersecurity and privacy because of my job, and I get to step away from the “hyperactive hive mind” that is the contemporary workplace (see Cal Newport’s A World Without Email on this topic). 

But why stop at merely trimming away the attention I pay to the obligatory work world? Why not see how much else I can pare away and discard?

So I’m going to see if I can step way back, disentangling myself from the constraints and commitments that I’ve made in the past, discovering what a new informational landscape might look like, teaching the algorithms to know a different side of me.

I’m going to unfollow and unsubscribe from everything that doesn’t brighten my day–on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, my inbox.

And I’m going to keep following the stuff that just makes me happy: so Avants, Austin Kleon, Rachael Talibart, and Randy Pobst all stay.

We’ll see what it looks like. Let me know if you’ve tried anything similar, and how it works or worked for you.