We have been talking a lot about ways to limit the distracting influences of the internet in general, and social networking in particular. It would be a mistake to conclude from our discussion that we think these technologies are bad, or even that they can’t be of valuable assistance as you prepare for your EPPP and afterwards in your career as a psychologist. Indeed, we have commented before that we encourage you to creatively use some of these things to your advantage rather than treating them as taboo.
Social networking is very important and in some vocations is becoming an indispensable part of the trade. We are not saying to avoid these things completely, only to avoid them during your times of study and to make sure they do not consume your mental resources.
If there are websites you need to check daily, or messages you need to reply to, by all means schedule a specific time each day to read them. Making a schedule for your studies, and sticking to it, will greatly reduce the distracting influences of the internet. In fact, new research shows that making specific plans creates mental space, allowing us to avoid distraction.
What you want to avoid with social networking is allowing yourself to enter into a condition that has been described as continuous partial attention, where you are semi-focused on multiple things at once but unable to give any one thing you full and undivided attention. As Small and Vorgan observed in iBrain:
“Our high-tech revolution has plunged us into a state of continuous partial attention, which software executive Linda Stone describes as continually staying busy-keeping tabs on everything while never truly focusing on anything…. When paying partial continuous attention, people may place their brains in a heightened state of stress. They no longer have time to reflect, contemplate, or make thoughtful decisions. Instead, they exist in a sense of constant crisis-on alert for a new contact or bit of exciting news or information at any moment. Once people get used to this state, they tend to thrive on the perpetual connectivity. It feeds their egos and sense of self-worth, and it becomes irresistible.”