‘Blocking apps’ are becoming a popular tool to help curb digital distractions  

Facebook changed its name to Meta in November 2021. The social media site’s name will not change, and people will still use ‘Facebook’ as a verb. But the company that also includes Instagram and a whole bunch of other social media platforms is going with a new corporate name that it says will “better encompass” what it does. The name was met with mockery by some, but most just shrugged, as they did when Google changed their parent company name to Alphabet. The name change itself shouldn’t cause too much worry, but Meta is an abbreviation of Metaverse; an idea Mark Zuckerberg and his board are plowing US$10 billion into over 2021 alone. The Metaverse is set to vastly increase augmented and virtual reality tech so that social media can worm its way even deeper into your life. The goal will be to keep everyone – regardless of age – stuck with their heads (literally) in the cloud for as much of the day as possible. This isn’t some secret, sinister plan. For a social media conglomerate, eyes glued to screens – or perhaps soon, VR goggles or holograms – equals revenue and they’re going to try to figure out how to retain as many eyes and brains as possible.

Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated

A person born after the year 2000 has never known a world where the internet and social media didn’t exist. Have you noticed that songs are getting shorter? Movie trailers are edited with faster cuts? Articles come with estimated reading times? The modern young person is essentially born with ADHD – and it’s hard to blame them for not being able to concentrate in a world that seems designed to thwart productivity. But a backlash has begun. People of all ages are trying to figure out how to increase productivity, and one of the top choices is learning to turn things off – if not completely then selectively. People all over the world are turning to what are known as ‘blocking apps.’ A blocking app allows you to selectively choose which websites you wish to see, or wish to have blocked… and at what times of the day. This would allow a student, for example, to block social media during times when they should be working on their homework, or an office worker to resist the allure of sports news or political blogs during times they need to get work done. After downloading a blocking app, you can sync it across all of your devices, so there’s no chance of cheating. The best part about a blocking app is its flexibility. You choose every setting and you choose every time parameter. This means if you’re honest with yourself and set up good time fences, you can block out distractions, and rely less on willpower to focus. “Out of sight out of mind,” as the old saying goes.

As we noted above, it’s hard to blame a social media conglomerate which is a public company for trying to maintain and increase profits. That’s how the system is set up. If Facebook or any other publicly-traded company didn’t meet profit goals, shareholders would fire the board and find new people who would. Social media companies have made great shows of acknowledging tech addiction and how their products can have negative or even detrimental effects on some. Device manufacturers from Apple to Samsung have also made noises about helping people control their screen time, but you still have to ask yourself, should these companies be expected to genuinely fight against their self-interest? Instead of relying on the goodwill of a device or media company to help you control the time you spend online, it’s a much better strategy to be proactive. With a blocking app, you’re able to make all the choices… plus they come with other productivity tools such as timers and scheduling helpers.

A blocking app can be a huge step forward in helping folks regain a bit of control over their digital lives and flex that discipline muscle. And we need to do this as the digital age is only just getting started. And what will seem like a blink of an eye, we will be living in a world where augmented reality and virtual reality is everywhere and in everything, every device will be connected to the Internet of Things, advertising will likely be ubiquitous, and those who haven’t figured out how to brush aside the noise will find themselves less than effective students or employees and by extension possibly less than effective members of 21st-century society which could mean being unemployed or struggling to make ends meet. A blocking app isn’t going to solve all of your problems but considering they are free and single across all devices it’s a huge step forward towards learning some digital discipline and increasing your quality of life and life productivity.