My divided attention
Isn’t it ironic? This morning, I started reading an article about how our attention span is getting shorter and shorter, and it took me all day to finish reading it. It was only 11 minutes long, but I just couldn’t gather enough attention to read it in one go.
It’s not like I’m not a reader. Every single morning at breakfast I read at least one article. I love consuming interesting new stuff, in my digital newspaper or online articles. But lately I find myself reading mostly short articles, no longer than 5 minute reads. I don’t read with a stopwatch, I know this because of the Pocket app, which I use to collect online articles to read later. When I save an article, Pocket nicely indicates the reading time. Going through my reading list, I’m noticing that the amount of unread longreads (10 minutes or more) is growing and growing. I tend to read short snacks only. And I don’t like it.
Because often, the more interesting articles are the longer ones. But I keep pushing them off. And it’s not just articles. I also find myself reading books less often, and when I do, only a few pages at a time. I’m not liking this version of me. The me whose attention is so divided.
But who is to blame? According to Johann Hari, the person the aforementioned article was about, our attention is getting stolen — hence the title of his book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention. Our attention is divided because we are seduced to multitask, check social media all the time and read everything off screens now.
Should we look at multitasking, media consumption and screentime the same way we look at carbon emissions? Deep down, we all now it’s bad for our health and for society. But like carbon emissions, it is just too damn hard to reduce it.
Me typing this blogpost is proof. It’s time to sleep and I’m still looking at a glowing screen, while I should be reading a book. I wonder if Stolen Focus is available for Kindle. Dammit. I mean, as a paper book.