Picture the scene. You're at your desk. The morning is almost over, as is your second cup of coffee. You feel busy, under pressure even, but the first item on today's to-do list has hardly been read, let alone completed. Your computer screen is a mess of browser tabs competing for your attention: a half-read news article, a spat on Facebook about some topic you hardly care about, some Amazon product you don't need, the weather, a half-composed Tweet. New messages flow into your email inbox faster than you can attend to them. You irritably close everything and glance again at your list, trying to balance its urgency with that of your inbox, only to hear your phone bleep. With great effort you resolve to ignore it but then a co-worker strolls by suggesting lunch. Feeling frustration mixing with a rising anxiety you give up on the entire morning, vowing instead to do better in the afternoon, but knowing your day will probably continue in the same manner. They all do.
I had definitely heard of Jaron Lanier, and I knew he was an Interesting Person (turns out he more or less invented Virtual Reality and was part of the team which scaled the early Internet. Heavy stuff). From occasional glimpses on YouTube I'd had him pegged as something like the comic book guy character from the Simpsons (or perhaps as a brainy Ignatius J Reilly – I mean this nicely, of course). Clearly very clever, faintly rambling, right-on, with a TED talk (or two) under his belt.
When I saw a reference to his new book, Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, I downloaded it with interest. The reference was in a book about productivity (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport) so I was expecting his ten arguments to be related to the (very real) fact that constant checking of social media trashes your attention span and ruins your ability to read whole paragraphs – as a grumpy forty-year-old this stuff is now very much my turf.