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Opinion: Digital distractions produce surprising self-improvements

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They say memory is all about association.

That must be the reason why when I smell pancakes or cigarettes, I’m instantly transported to a small cafe in Arkansas, where my family would grab breakfast on weekends. It’s odd the way the brain works, especially since that establishment hasn’t existed for years.

I’ve been reminded of the power of memory as of late, as I look to digital solutions to distract myself from the onslaught of doom and gloom that 2020 continues to bring.

Facebook and other social media websites tend to show me the worst in myself and other people, and I’m so tired of the endless slog. It almost always dissolves into “doomscrolling,” a term referring to the continuous perusal of disappointing or demoralizing news and information without the ability to stop.

There is an addictive quality to social media, and I’m attempting to slow my use. It’s a hard-to-break habit after years of daily check-ins.

Ironically, Facebook was where I discovered a new healthy digital obsession of mine, a video diary app called 1 Second Everyday that my cousin posted about.

The premise is pretty simple, and if you’ve been on the internet for any length of time, it should be familiar.

On 1SE, the user uploads a video clip every day. From that clip, they select a one-second snippet to add to their timeline. Over several days and weeks, those snippets connect to make a longer clip. Thirty days of content means 30 seconds of video. You may recall YouTube videos of people taking photos every day and merging them together over time to create a historical slideshow of themselves. This is a very similar concept.

More than a month into using the app once a day, I’ve got a fairly respectable clip of small moments of my life. It’s certainly a fun distraction.

What I didn’t expect was self-improvement.

Similar to pancakes, cigarettes and the Arkansas cafe from my childhood, my mind begins to connect these one-second clips into entire days of my life.

A snippet of unwrapping a pasty from London Calling instantly brings me back to a weekend where my wife and I were child-free, doing our best to have a nice Saturday while social distancing at Farmers Market of the Ozarks.

For me, days tend to blend together, and I recall overall feelings rather than specifics. I’m seeing a shift just with this simple app, and it’s a phenomenon I wholly can recommend.

This simple change in my life has sparked interest in further self-improvement, and I’ve attempted to duplicate the results of 1SE via other apps.

Duolingo and Google Translate have impressed me with their takes on learning other languages. I’ve dipped my toes into brain-training waters with apps like Peak, and Autodesk SketchBook is a neat tool for artistic creativity.

In the gaming realm, the skills of social deduction and an ability to see through deception have been put to the test through the always fun Among Us video game, which also is a free app.

What works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but what better time than now to use the digital tools at your disposal for self-improvement?

2020 needs a little more positivity, and it starts with you.

Springfield Business Journal Web Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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