Fighting fire with fire: battling distractions with apps

Meredith Wade

Sitting down to write that research paper that was assigned to you weeks ago is a daunting task in itself. But today it seems almost impossible with your iPhone and laptop sitting innocently on your desk, basically begging to be used. Writing one sentence for every Trivia Crack question you answer correctly seems like an efficient system, right? The creators of apps like, “Self Control,” “Anti-Social” and “Concentrate” don’t quite agree. 

In the past few years startling studies have emerged, reporting the shocking amount that distraction affects us. Larry Rosen, a psychologist, published a study in “Psychology Today” reporting that the average middle school student could only focus on a task for three minutes at a time when studying. With constant distractions from the World Wide Web it is extremely difficult to stay on task. This influx of social media distraction may also be hindering our ability to perform as well. In 2009, a Stanford University research team concluded that college-age students who had a high exposure to social media were more apt to answer questions that required focus incorrectly than those who only had a slight exposure to social media distractions.

With this information in mind, developers have decided to fight fire with fire combatting the social media saturated brains of adolescents with technology that prevents people from accessing these sidetracking sites. The application, “Self Control,” available for Macs and PCs, is a free service that allows users to block their own email, distracting websites or anything else on the internet. Users can set up a “blacklist” of sites that they can block for up to 24 hours. Be warned, this app is not for the faint of heart as there is no way to access the sites until the timer expires, even if the app is deleted or your computer is restarted. Creator, Charlie Stigler, was adamant about creating an application without loopholes to foster the highest protection from distraction.

 Not only is social media distraction inconvenient when you are trying to finish up your chemistry lab, but moreover, it can have serious side effects. Looking at your phone or laptop before going to bed each night can alter levels of sleepiness and alertness the next morning. The application “Anti-Social” locks your computer from social sites that tend to foster the highest number of distractions. This app could be perfect to set before you are going to sleep, as the only way to get out of the block is to restart your computer. At that point, the fleeting need to check your Facebook one last time before sleep will have most likely disappeared. 

The recent development in technology that is made to block other technologies certainly exemplifies the idea that social media has taken over our lives. But does this social media blocking technology signal to us that our use of technology is out of control? Is this a call to attention to reevaluate what is important in our lives? Can what has been done be reversed? Only time can tell really as we see whether or not these technology based distraction applications really have an effect on our social-media crazed generation.