It’s 2am. You’re trying to finish up a paper that’s due tomorrow, but instead you find yourself updating your status on Facebook, looking up that amazing new music video on YouTube, or catching up on your celebrity gossip on MSN. Everything but what you REALLY need to be doing. It’s something that we are all faced with at some point, even if some people fight the temptation better than others: distraction. Well, now there’s an app for that.
Introducing SelfControl, the Mac app created specifically for the distracted generation of youth today. Out of a survey I conducted with the majority of respondents 18-24 year-olds, 80% of themadmitted to having some sort of a procrastination problem, and one-third of them saying that it negatively affected their work. And in comparing Internet usage, With statistics like this, the world appears to need some sort of motivation boost. Is the app version of SelfControl, what we need to help our actual self control? Well, lets look at the app and what it can do.
SelfControl is an application that can be downloaded from the Internet, which was created by founder Steve Lambert tohelp users cut down on Internet distractions. It is very simple to use. After downloading it, the app window will appear. You then have to decide exactly which sites it is that distract you, and add those domains to add to your blacklist, use the slider to set the timer, and hit start. Once the timer is started, the user cannot undo the blacklisting of the webpages or any other application, so until the timer is up, if you try to access the site, it will result in a dead page. Even your valiant attempts to override the app will fail, including switching browsers, deleting the app, or even restarting your computer.
Steve Lambert, the artist that created the app, describes SelfControl. “I am an artist, and as anyone who creates things knows; the time you can block out to get focused work done is invaluable.” When asked why he created this simple yet effective app, he responded, “Because I needed it, same as you.” Lambert is a senior fellow at the Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology in New York, where he created the application.
As of right now, this application is only available for Mac users. However, Steve Lambert responds to frustrations from PC users that SelfControl is an open-sourced application that is free to be edited and used to create a PC version-it’s just that nobody had taken the time to do it yet. Based on the results of my survey, 60% of the PC users expressed interest in having a PC version of this app. There was also frustration over this aspect of the app articulated on several comments on blogs that had introduced this app to the Internet community. So computer programmers, feel free to help PC users out!
But we come back to the questions: Does this app actually work? Out of those surveyed, 83% of the people who had previously used the application said they were more productive with their time and the quality of their work was better when using SelfControl. A student discussed her usage of SelfControl: “I use this app usually around finals time when I’m really crunched for time and have a lot of things to accomplish. It’s nice because you literally can’t access the things you want to (distractions) and you’re forced to do your homework because there’s nothing else to do.”
However, there is cynicism surrounding this app. Forty-two percent of the survey pool answered that they would maybe try it, but they were skeptical it would work. Part of this reason is the fact that there are many more distractions out there besides just the Internet. After talking to students, some brought up the idea that even if they used this app, they would find something else to do besides be productive, such as television, their phones, cleaning, or socializing. So the question is posed, will we ever be freed from our distractions? Even if we eliminate some, it seems as if we can always find something else.
In completing my travelogue, I would like to delve a little deeper into this last question that was brought up based on my research and peer discussions. I also will have more first-hand interview ideas because I am having some friends who have never used the application before use it and then I will interview them discussing the app and its successes/failures.