In this time and age, due to the growing influence and impact of the Internet, we have officially earned the status of being Digital prisoners.
Digital Prisoner (N): A human who is chained to the Internet.
I can’t think of one day in the past year that I’ve spent without the Internet, or in a state of “digital detox”. The methods used by others while pursuing the infamous digital detoxification seem to be similar to a diet used for weight loss: initially distasteful, then somewhat working and finally back to square one. It hasn’t changed anything about your Internet habits! You’ve gone right back to where you started.
Instead of rushing forth and propagating the (unseen, unmeasured) advantages of a digital detox, I believe that it’s time to take a sharp right turn towards honing our skill of concentration, Practice and focus while on the Internet. The tips I mention in this Article can be applied to other areas of your life where you are struggling to grasp and process information to better suit your understanding.
In today’s day and age, we suffer from chronic information overloaditis.
Information overloaditis is a virus which causes even the strongest of brains to collapse while processing incredible, vast amounts of information, some which might not even be relevant or useful to the task at hand.
How do you go about understanding the information-dense Internet?
- Gravitate towards articles that are researched, well thought-out and are from credible authors.
If you’re doing research, do your own research on the article.
Who is writing it? Why are they writing this article? Are they biased? What makes them biased?
Research the author, and their credentials to make sure it’s not just your everyday, ho-hum average blogger. We are looking for the experts and advanced, distinguished members in the field which you are interested in. They should have proved their worth in contributions to the topic which you are interested in learning about.
Word of advice: content is king.
It triumphs no matter where you go. If you aren’t learning or capturing the ideas from the best, you aren’t going to progress.
2. Balance online reading with books.
Want an easy way to indulge in some me-time and take a break from your travels as a digital nomad?
Open up a book!
That’s right; nonfiction books about the topics which you are scouring the Internet for have information that has been checked, reviewed and edited multiple times by professionals.
Be careful about the dating of the material you choose, though.
In computer science, it’s fair game to say that the textbooks that your library has might be using age-old technology. In this case, it’s important to grasp the fundamentals, or the basics and then translate those into your API. A good way to make sure that you’ve understood what you’ve read is to rewrite it in your own words. Take out that notepad and start doodling, bulleting and summarizing. You want to absorb the essentials.
Word of advice: the basics are classics.
You can’t get anywhere in self-learning if you don’t know the main rules and objectives behind the subject you’re studying. You need to understand the main concepts before branching off and experimenting with subtopics.
3. When you read an article that has sources, read through the sources too. If the article lacks sources, read more posts by the author.
This tip is actually inspired by Rosie Leizrowice, whose blogs constantly inspire my bouts of self-growth and productivity. If you’re looking to read articles that will enhance your lifestyle and provide you with some insight on purpose, go check out her stuff!
When you’ve found a source or author that has captured your attention and provided you with indispensable information, splurge.
Read through everything they’ve written on the topic. Look out for their favorite readings and blog posts.
If your article comes with a bibliography, congratulations! You’ve hit the jackpot.
Go through the bibliography with the eyes of a detective. Scour it for the articles which interest you and capture your attention.
4. Now, it’s time to sit down and apply what you learned.
It’s common knowledge that reading isn’t enough to grasp the material at hand. What’s often left out, however, are the specific practices needed to re-learn and solidify.
Hands down, the best way to grasp a difficult concept is through deliberate practice. I’m sure that’s a buzz word that you’ve heard before.
Instead of following what others do while practicing their knowledge, use what you know about yourself to hijack the process of deliberate practice. What kinds of mediums do you learn the best from? Are you an auditory learner? What about visuals? Do those work for you?
The best methods are found through trial and error, but they all have one thing in common: everything is in a way that you understand. It’s all about how you understand best.
You are not practicing for anyone else but yourself.
Focus on the more fundamental, less difficult skills first.
Is there a project you can do that ensures you’ve captured the basics before moving onto the advanced? Can you write up a test for yourself with all of those mathematical concepts and take it on a different day? Is there a chance you can practice that drawing technique using some scratch paper?
Testing is the best technique to accelerating self-learning because it ensures that you have retained necessary knowledge and know how to apply it in a given situation.
For the learners who want to keep honing their skills, find ways to connect what you’ve learned to everyday situations and attempt to find practical applications. There’s no better way to understand than to find patterns, connections and relationships. That’s how we think. That’s how our neurons operate.
The next time you’re stuck on learning about a topic on the Internet, follow these four steps. I’m confident this will be a game-changer.
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Understanding in the Age of Digital Distraction was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.