Steve Fenton

Tidying up The Web

It is time to tidy up The Web.

The Web was created to share information, and this is still the best thing it offers today. There are lots of other benefits, but the lasting masterpiece of The Web will be that anyone with a connection can find and access an abundance of information, knowledge, and wisdom.

I remember having access to a collection of Encyclopaedias when I was young. It had an entry for almost every topic you could need (almost) – but each entry was a minimal summary that barely scratched the surface. Now I can access vast amounts of information on any subject from a one page summary to a large volume on a very specific aspect.

But there is another side to The Web. The vapid, transitory, time-wasting side. It seeks to capture every moment of downtime. If it can hold our gaze long enough, it can sell our attention as a commodity to advertisers. But it isn’t just a waste of time… it is what it displaces that is the real tragedy.

Depending on who you read, there are many analogies for the two modes that the brain operates in. Traditionally it has been “left” and “right”, Kahneman used “fast” and “slow”, and Hunt used my favourite terms for these two modes of operation: “rich” mode and “linear” mode.

We spend a great deal of time using linear mode, but we naturally have a lot of opportunity for rich mode to kick in. For example, while stood in a queue, or sat drinking a coffee, or in the bath, or during our commute. Whenever we have some downtime our rich mode process can make amazing things happen.

The only hitch in this plan is that we have started to fill our downtime. By allowing messaging and social media to consume these opportunities, we are eroding our personal awesomeness.

This is in addition to the more apparent problems – the clear lack of presence displayed when a couple are sat at lunch, ignoring each other in favour of keeping up with social media.

This is why I deleted several accounts a couple of months back, and why I have removed all social media applications from my phone. If something wants my attention on social media, it can wait until I dedicate a chunk of time to it. In the meantime, I’m allowing natural downtime to fuel better decision making and have already reaped the benefits in my work.

One side effect of this is that I have discovered that smart-phone batteries are much better than we all believe them to be, coffee tastes even better, and trolls cannot touch me where I now choose to reside – in my own mind and body.

Written by Steve Fenton on