How uninterrupted noise helps millions focus

9 min read
How uninterrupted noise helps millions focus

Who among us isn’t all too familiar with the depressingly familiar tug of war between putting off chores that need focus and being lured to distractions like a moth to a flame?

Sometimes we are the ones to blame, and we curse our inclination to put things off till later. On the other hand, we ought to cut ourselves some slack. We are living in an age that has never been seen before, one in which devices meant to entice us away from doing what we had planned to do have generated billions of dollars. This age is unparalleled.

These are not particularly novel ideas. But something happened recently that has, strangely, attracted not a small bit of attention and has given me a glimmer of hope that the internet, which has rewired our minds, could also be used to untangle them. This hope was supplied to me by a recent event that took place.

Lofi Girl was a music live-stream that had been streaming on YouTube without interruption for over 20,843 hours, which is more than two years. In that time, the channel had accumulated 660 million views. Last month, YouTube suddenly terminated the channel.

The takedown occurred because of an invalid claim to copyright, but it was eventually undone. But such is the appeal of Lofi Girl that its followers were, for a time, without hope.

Why? The song “Lofi Girl” is a playlist that never stops playing “lofi beats,” and it is accompanied with an animation showing a student working at her desk. Low-fidelity, or “lofi,” beats are mellow hip-hop rhythms that don’t feature any vocals and are designed to promote calm and concentration.

The pictures of the pupil that were created by the Colombian artist Juan Pablo Machado are also extremely important to the overall mission of the channel. The cityscape shifts as day becomes night, a cat wags its tail, and Lofi Girl keeps writing while the beat continues.

According to Emma Winston, an ethnomusicologist at the University of London who has studied Lofi Girl, the genre’s appeal lies in the fact that it is “cozy and relaxing, and frequently made to seem analogue and ancient, like it’s from a former era that may or may not have truly happened.”

According to her, the most important aspect of the channel is a chat window that appears alongside the video. In this window, viewers encourage one another by saying things like “you got this,” which is unusual on platforms like YouTube.

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“That can offer a sense of companionship, but it is one that is 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,” the author writes. “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.”

Winston has made the observation that the Internet is a fertile breeding ground for many styles of music, but lofi beats is one of a kind because it is a genre that was specifically created as a result of the Internet to satisfy the desires of people who, like me, aren’t looking for silence but rather peace.

Reed Arvin, a record producer based in Nashville, claims that “there’s really nothing going on in the sound spectrum we identify with excitement.”

“We refer to such numbers as the ‘bright’ range. The music of Lofi Girl is soothing not just in terms of its composition but also in terms of its sound.”

The manner in which Lofi Girl rejects some of the fundamental principles that drive the commercial models of Big Tech is also a key aspect of the story.

As a result of its nonstop replay, YouTube is deprived of any opportunities to present users with new content and advertisements that are intended to lead them down the proverbial “rabbit hole.” In the whirlwind of content that is constantly vying for our attention from all directions, Winston refers to the stream as “a still point.”

In addition to this, Lofi Girl offers a response that is more satisfying to those who argue that we should just ignore the various digital distractions. According to a supporter named Tyler Lok who lives in Salt Lake City, the influence of the Internet on our thoughts is such that disruptions can only be “shut off” if something else is “on.”
According to Lok, “We engage ourselves with stimuli continually… to the point where our brains begin to lose the ability to be bored,” because of this, our brains begin to lose the ability to experience boredom. “Streams (like Lofi Girl) enable us to remain hooked into digital stimulation while yet getting work done,” the author writes.

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