I'll try keep this short

Oy, you over there, stop looking at that, and look at this.
It’s yesterday’s Sunday Times column.

Have a great week, xp.

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about my attention span, and wondering where it got to. Of course I didn’t think about it all at once, I thought about it in many short bursts, between sending texts, doing my tax return, checking my email and watching telly.
Over the last couple of decades life has ramped up to such a frenetic pace and times are so tough, that we can no longer even afford to pay attention, we even have to multi-task our thinking.
Smart phones and the internet are the constant bait that lures us away from what we’re focusing on to just quickly check what earth-shattering events we’re missing out on over at Facebook or Twitter. And by earth-shattering, I mean the fact that someone you were once in high school with just ate a Caprese Salad.
The net is that last chocolate biscuit that haunts you from inside a cupboard, or that rough tooth you have to worry with your tongue all the time, or that six year old with a box of dominoes. It won’t leave your mind alone until you play with it just a little bit. And so we hand our attention back over to it every time. A friend of mine reckons I have a screen addiction, but it’s not just me, I’m telling you, it’s a global epidemic.
If we’re still around in a couple of centuries, our shoulders will more than likely become more rounded from looking down at our cell phones all the time, and we’ll get more and more stooped from sitting at computers, reversing our path back down that classic illustration of the evolution of man, until we’re simply pond scum sending text messages to other pond scum.
Out of sheer frustration, people without Screenitis have developed ideas like The Phone Stack, which is big in New York right now. Next time you go to a restaurant make everyone at your table put their phones into a stack in the middle of the table, and the first person to reach for their phone has to pay the entire bill. Embarrassingly enough I was the first to cave when we tried it, I made it all the way to the apple crumble before I crumbled, when I suddenly remembered an urgent call I’d forgotten to make. It was even more embarrassing because I was the one who had suggested we try the phone stack in the first place.
The movies are a great place to see this addiction in action. Most people can hardly sit still for two hours without checking their phones. Ironically, this worldwide attention deficit disorder came to my deficit attention whilst I was watching a TV series that’s so hot right now, called The Newsroom.
The Newsroom is brilliant, but here’s the thing, it’s all dialogue, and intelligent dialogue too, not the ‘pull my finger’, ‘dude where’s my car?’ kind of stuff we usually get stuck into. This stuff is so quick that if you miss just one sentence you can lose track completely. I have to force myself to sit down and do nothing but watch it. No emailing, no tweeting, no checking facebook or cooking. It’s an hour that screams for every inch of your focus, and for me it’s a weekly lesson in fighting to get my attention back in shape.
We seem to be in the age of the TV series right now. Ten years ago they were a dying breed. When both Friends and Seinfeld came to an end, there was a definite dip in the good stuff. If you saw a big Hollywood name in a TV series you wondered how they’d screwed up enough to get booted down to the small screen, and there was some suggestion it might be the end of their career. These days the opposite is true. We’re seeing bigger and bigger stars hitting the now booming series circuit with great success.
I wonder how much of this success is attributable to our dwindling attention spans. These days an hour-long show (forty five minutes if you subtract the ad breaks) is so much more manageable than a two hour movie.
It’s an interesting concept. Maybe I should go tweet about it. Hey, I wonder what’s happening over on Facebook? Where was I again? Oh look, there’s a Tumblr where people shame their dogs. That’s funny. Wait, what was I saying? Ooh shiny!

with thanks to @barbibauskin on Twitter for sending me this image.

2 responses to “I'll try keep this short”

  1. Well said, lady!
    My arse, which has rapidly expanded to not just the size but the square shape of my ‘puter chair, is testament to the validity of your observations.

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