A common mantra in Western culture is that we should all "go with the flow". For some this means conforming and abandoning the strenuous nature of their own individuality, and for others it represents a certain inevitability about the structure of trends and vox populi in today's Society. However, from a psychological perspective, this "flow" has a slightly different meaning that alludes to the way in which we attempt to live with as few distractions as possible.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book in 1997 which promotes the idea that true happiness is attained from experiences which he called "flow experiences".

These are activities in which one becomes completely immersed in said activity and is able to block out all external stimuli. In this short period of time you exist within a microcosm that isn't subject to the same rules as the rest of the universe - and for this reason we may find it easier to control. Csikszentmihalyi also noted that flow activities tend to provide immediate feedback; a cyclist who swerves to avoid a divot in the road will find out extremely quickly the outcome of their actions.

What becomes problematic in modern culture is that it is not geared towards this mono-cognitive state. Society promotes the idea that information holds the key to happiness and success, and one can hardly attempt to gather more information when entranced within a single activity.

This paired with the fact that the ability to multitask is highly lauded, especially in the workplace, means that we are finding it harder to focus on the "simple pleasures" in life.

Eric Hirsch and Roger Silverstone wrote a book on the rise of modern media in 2003 that pointed out the difference that modern technology has from previous inventions in terms of functionality.

Mobile phones and computers are not merely products that perform services we would otherwise do ourselves, but rather a part of the media which affects the way we use them. The Internet provides us with information that otherwise we may have no way of attaining, at least within a relevant timespan, and from this perspective you wonder why one wouldn't spend as much time as possible harvesting the swathes of news and gossip.

There have been many articles previously posted online, some with varying reference to actual scientific study, that talk about how Social media is shortening our attention spans. The fact that we do seek immediate feedback - as Czikszentmihalyi pointed out - may be linked to our dwindling attention spans. However, it is the lure of the unknown that social media provides which differs from completing a simple task such as finishing a move in chess or playing a chord to perfection. In the case of the latter two we know what the outcome will look like, whereas our obsession with the internet is derived from the idea that we simply don't know what will happen next, be that in an interpersonal network or on a global scale.

The task of creating a mindset whereby we can practice these "flow activities" is easier said than done though. Merely switching off and becoming aware of our own thought is difficult enough. What could be more important in the long run is how this affects our ability to engross ourselves in certain areas of our lives and give them the full attention that they deserve.