ABC Disorder (Aimless Browsing Compulsion)

Do you suffer from ABC Disorder?

I know I do.

I am afflicted with an acute case of Aimless Browsing Compulsion.

For me, it’s a malady that can only be treated — never cured.  Hours or days worth of good work can be undone by one seemingly harmless new Chrome tab.  One refresh of the Twitter feed.

I lose awareness after clicking a link for something like Santa Monica homeless culture explained in three charts and then come-to an hour later staring at YouTube remixes of the Howard Dean scream after the 2004 Iowa caucuses.

In between, I’ve clicked and browsed an “Outbrain” link or two (i.e. these 10 athletes have genius level IQs … number three will surprise you) where the payoff is never as good as the headline. Never.  I’ve also probably read a highbrow journalism piece or two (any behavioral economics tie-in gets me to click.  Mention Daniel Kahneman in the headline and you’ve got my cookie.) And then I’ve also probably free-associated something I’m interested in, Googled it, found information I was looking for, and consumed links to three or four different sources of information.

The thing is. I wasn’t really interested in Santa Monica homeless culture in the first place.  I was supposed to be updating my excel file of Christmas card addresses.

On some days, I shudder to think what my browsing path/history must look like.  To paraphrase Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now

“I don’t see any method … at all.” 

So wouldn’t it be an interesting exercise to:

  1. Publish, for the world to see, 24-hours of your browsing history on all devices.  Desktop, laptop, work box, mobile phone … wherever you’ve accessed the internet.
  2. Compare your behavior for that day to a typical day in your recent history — before you brought any mindfulness to your browsing patterns.

I’m guessing this would be a strong corrective to ABC disorder.  My hypothesis follows Heisenbergian  findings that a particle changes behavior when it is observed. (Yes, bringing a layman’s half-baked understanding of particle physics is ALWAYS a good idea for a blog post.)

Thinking through the Heisenberg hypothesis of internet consumption led me to tweet this implication yesterday:

Ironically, I’d use my time and energy more wisely if my web activity was being actively surveilled as opposed to passively data-mined. 

It’s an interesting thought exercise to consider that by graciously keeping my usage data private and anonymous, Google profits from my slothful habits by serving ad after ad on all the sites I visit, the corporate clickbait growing smarter with each of my pageviews.

Ironically, if I were being directly surveilled — at risk of the world seeing my complete usage data — I’d most likely make much different — and for the most part healthier — browsing choices.

(There’s another post here exploring the ways internet browsing consumption mirrors food consumption.)  

So maybe it’s time to shine an observational beam on my aimless browsing compulsion.

Whether it’s for the whole world to see — or just for an accountability partner — I have yet to decide.

Stay tuned.

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