Who among us isn’t depressingly familiar with the constant tug of war between putting off tasks that require focus, and, like a moth to a flame, being drawn to distraction?
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Sometimes we blame ourselves, cursing our tendency to procrastinate. But we should give ourselves a break. We’re living in an unprecedented age where billions of dollars have been made by machines designed to tempt us away from doing what we had planned to do.
These thoughts are hardly new. But something happened recently, which - ironically - has captured no small amount of attention and provided me with a glimmer of hope that the internet that has rewired our minds could also be used to untangle them.
LOFI GIRL, UNINTERRUPTED
Last month, YouTube suddenly suspended Lofi Girl, a music live-stream that had been broadcasting, uninterrupted, for about 20,843 hours - more than two years - gathering 660 million views in the process.
The takedown was due to a false copyright claim and was later reversed. But such is Lofi Girl’s popularity that its fans were, briefly, bereft.
Why? Lofi Girl is a nonstop playlist of “lofi beats”, set to a video animation of a student working at her desk. Lofi (low fidelity) beats are soft hip-hop rhythms with no vocals, optimised to engender calm and focus.
The images of the student, made by Colombian artist Juan Pablo Machado, are also vital to the channel’s purpose. As day passes into night, the cityscape changes, a cat wags its tail, and Lofi Girl keeps writing as the beat goes on.
'YOU GOT THIS'
For Emma Winston, an ethnomusicologist at the University of London who has studied Lofi Girl, its appeal is that it is “cosy and calming and often designed to sound analogue and aged, like it’s from a past era that may or may not have actually existed”.
Central to the channel’s function, she says, is a chat window alongside the video where users leave positive “you-got-this” comments for one another, which is rare on sites like YouTube.
“That can offer a sense of companionship, but it’s one that’s very low pressure - you can enjoy the music completely alone, nobody needs to know you’re there, but you can still feel co-present with others in a space.”