Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

No willpower? Put a lock on online

By · Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Here’s a short one today — but we thought this was fun to share. College students — and more and more, professors, too, for that matter — will have to find a way to manage their social media time this fall so that journalism classes/work get an appropriate share of attention. With Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and who knows what else open on your computer screen, how do you find time for anything else or maintain a train of thought?

It is difficult.

Well, there’s some software you can buy that “locks” you out of the Internet for up to eight hours at a time, if you don’t have the willpower to simply ignore it. This, presumably, “makes you focus.” You have to restart your machine if you want to go back online early, a supposed disincentive.

Freedom” costs 10 bucks a year. (And you can probably buy “quick reboot” software for $11.)

I have tried experimenting with this idea — that is, pledging to not be sidetracked by the online siren for an hour or so — and generally failed. I can’t imagine this new software helping with that, but kudos to founders who had this idea, the kind of  thing many would dismiss as “too silly to sell.” And, indeed, it may well fail.

A New York Times story reports that Nielsen concludes, “one in every four-and-a-half minutes spent on the Web is spent on a social networking site or blog.” And we know which way that number is trending; in fact, the Nielsen number was from this time a year ago, so it’s probably a little low. There have been a number of legitimate studies that suggest online distractions really are challenging our attention spans, so perhaps Freedom is not only a logical but also an inevitable tool.

Good luck apportioning your time this coming year.

And if you try Freedom, let us know if it’s worth 83 cents a month.

Steve Davis

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