Monday, November 05, 2018

Clickbait ADHD

I know that November is Novel Writing Month, but I can barely write a novel in a year.


I have the attention span of a six-year-old. That’s a bad thing if you’re writing an 90,000-word mystery. Worse, if you’re working on a computer and you’re logged onto the internet.

First off, I’m a news junkie. Every morning, I look at the websites of the Washington Post, the New York Times, Politico, The Hill, Huffington Post, and the Raleigh News & Observer. The current political climate doesn’t do anything to assuage my news addiction. Scary things are happening and an absurd rate of speed.

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If I just read the stories that interested me, I would most likely be fine. But I go for clickbait. Those shiny, sparkly, too good to be true headlines that always promise more that they deliver—suddenly I’m down the rabbit hole. When I should be working on Chapter 23, instead I’m clicking on something that’s caught my eye.

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And how much time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is too much? I justify it by saying that they’re all marketing tools to help get the word about my books. “Liking” my friends’ photos is just being neighborly. Isn’t it?

After all, they “like” and share the reviews I post of Random Road and Darkness Lane. Facebook and Twitter, well, they're just good marketing tools.

A few years ago, a Chicago psychologist, Michael Pietrus offered an interesting theory: Maybe these distractions aren’t just an internet-age annoyance but something approaching actual pathology.

It's possible the internet is giving us all the symptoms of ADHD. He cautioned, “We are not saying that internet technologies and social media are directly causing ADHD.” But he claimed that the internet “can impair functioning in a variety of ways…that can mimic and in some cases exacerbate underlying attention problems.”

According to the CDC, an estimated 4.4 percent of adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It can make it difficult to concentrate on one thing for any period of time. Adults with ADHD, unlike children, aren’t hyperactive in the conventional sense. But they can be compulsive, easily distracted, easily bored. They lose interest halfway through reading an article or completing a task.

When I sit down at my desk on a Saturday morning intending to have two chapters under my belt by the end of the day and I look at my watch and see that it’s already noon and I haven’t written a word—well, that’s when I slap myself in the forehead.

How do I combat my addiction? Believe it or not--YouTube. No, I don’t download kitty videos or trailers of upcoming movies (although I love those) and nor do I download outtakes from the Big Bang Theory (even though I find those laugh-out-loud hilarious).

Nope, I’ll listen to ambient music. There’s a ton of it out there. It’s like the background music in a movie. If I’ve come to a sad chapter, I put on an hour of sad music. If I’m at a place of introspection, I’ll put on an hour or so of a chill mix. Writing a scary scene? There are some ambient style Game of Thrones soundtracks that put me in the right frame of mind.

A 2007 study from Stamford University published in the journal Neuron makes the claim that music engages the areas of the brain linked with paying attention, making predictions and updating memory.

'Cursed’ Egyptian sarcophagus reveals secrets.

That’s the last one, I promise. Time to turn on some ambient music and write that novel.


Anonymous said...

You are right that the online environment has changed how people perceive and process information. I edit higher ed textbooks, and publishers are looking for ways to deliver content in short chunks, with lots of visuals and interactive functions, to try to keep students engaged. While it's interesting to learn new strategies for teaching and learning, it makes me sad that so few people seem to have the ability to be still and focus. And that there's so little respect for doing so.

Mar Preston said...

Sadly, I'm there with you. I also host a nasty little addiction to spider solitaire.

I've been reading up on ADHD as well. There must be an answer.

Aline Templeton said...

You're speaking for me here too, Thomas. Should be working right now, and look what I'm doing!