Reclaiming Focus in the Digital Age: Battling Online Distractions

Are you losing focus and spending too much time on-line: TheBoldAge investigates?

Published by Frank Just on Oct 19, 2023

In today’s connected age, the internet hast become an integral part of our lives, offering unparalleled access and connectivity. However, like Newtons law, alongside the societal benefits, convenience and opportunities, there is a much darker, insidious side. The constant barrage of notifications, the allure of endless scrolling, and the proliferation of social media have made it increasingly challenging to maintain our focus. We see a digital tsunami that is already beginning to overwhelm societies, impacting on our physical and mental wellbeing as well as our cognitive abilities.

Mind-wandering is essential for creativity and problem-solving, but spending more time in the connected world means we are spending more time internet hopping and less and less time using our minds. One could argue that this is a form of cognitive pollution impairing our ability to think, focus and be at our more productive.

The hypothesis is that, quite literally, our focus and minds are being stolen. We delve into some of the causes of the ‘steal’ and look at the practical strategies to reclaim it.

The Digital Distraction Epidemic

  • Social Media’s Siren Song

The rise of social media has made it easier to connect with friends, colleagues and acquaintances from around the world. However, the endless stream of status updates, likes, and shares can quickly become a vortex that sucks away our precious time and attention. Scrolling through our newsfeeds becomes a habit, one that offers little real value, and distracts us from more important tasks. This habit forming is exactly what is needed to support the monetisation of these platforms.

  • The Perpetual Notification Cycle

Smartphones and apps are designed to grab our attention with constant notifications. Whether it’s a new email, a text message, or a social media mention, these notifications disrupt our concentration, pulling us away from the task at hand. This not only affects our productivity but also leads to a scattered mind, making it difficult to concentrate on any single task. There is some great research on this that can be found in Johann Hari’s book, Stolen focus.

  • Information Overload

The internet is a vast sea of information, and while access to knowledge is remarkable, it can also be overwhelming. Constantly searching for new information, jumping from one article to the next, and diving into the rabbit holes of online content can lead to a fragmented, unfocused mind. As researchers we often find ourselves discussing something that has popped up tangentially.

  • Addiction

Habit forming, Johann Harri postulates, is what technology companies have designed their products to be. By being as addictive as possible, our attention is not only piqued but held. in order to sell us more products and services. How often have you followed a thread to suddenly find ads that satisfy urges and needs you may not have had. The suggestion is that the platforms are designed to exploit our need for validation and fear of missing out

Reclaiming Focus

Johann Hari in Stolen Focus describes how he went into technological exile, a form of “extreme digital detox’, for 3 months, and the impacts it had. Most of us don’t have the ability to do that, so what are some of the practical things we could do.

  • Set Boundaries

You could start by setting strict boundaries. Designate specific times for checking social media or emails and stick to them. Utilise features like “Do Not Disturb” on your devices to limit notifications during work or study hours. By the way you will be amazed at just how difficult this is, but also at the results. It may take a while to get used to, but your ability to be more focused and productive is amazing.

  • Digital Detox

You could do a much less intense version of Johann Hari’s detox by occasionally disconnecting entirely from the digital world. This can-do wonders for your focus. Go offline for period, be that a few hours, a day, or a weekend and give an opportunity for your mind to reset and help break the habit of constant online engagement.

  • Prioritise and Plan

Establish clear priorities and goals for each day. Create a to-do list, organize tasks by importance, and allocate specific time slots for work, study, and leisure activities. When you have a plan, you’re less likely to mindlessly wander online. We found this list setting and the sticking to it, without being distracted by the ‘call’ of our digital world, the hardest to do. Our advice is to do this in conjunction with the other ideas we talk about. 

  • Mindfulness and Meditation

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can be invaluable in training your mind to focus. These techniques help you become more aware of your thoughts and can provide you with the mental discipline needed to resist the urge to impulsively check your devices. Aside from the detoxifying impact, the knock-on benefits of mindfulness are enormous. 

  • Use Technology to Your Advantage

While technology can be a source of distraction, it can also be a solution. There are numerous apps and tools designed to help you maintain focus, such as website blockers, time management apps, and the like.

  • Distraction free environments

Think about certain rooms in your house like the lounge as being connection free. This again gives you the ability to reclaim your space and the ability to think, mind surf, or pick up that book you have been meaning to read for goodness how long. Then there are places where you can build in downtime, such as libraries or coffee shops, without the WIFI.

  • Sleep

Screen time has been found to have a negative impact on our sleep. Getting enough sleep is essential for cognitive function and attention, so we need to make sure we are getting enough.


The digital age has given us incredible opportunities, but it’s also introduced new challenges to maintaining focus and productivity. Social media, perpetual notifications, and information overload are all clawing for our attention. However, by taking practical steps, we can combat these distractions and find a healthy balance between our online and offline lives.


Thanks for the Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Useful Links

Lack of sleep can have long term impacts – TheBoldAge

Yoga sharpens the body and mind – TheBoldAge

Boldies: Our mind matters – a lot – TheBoldAge

Why your internet habits are not as clean as you think – BBC Future

Constant craving: how digital media turned us all into dopamine addicts | Life and style | The Guardian