Sunday, April 26, 2009

Short attention spans

There is pandemic, and no...its not the flu, its the increasingingly short attention span. I'm finding it more and more difficult to concentrate hard enough for a long time on something. I get distracted and start doing something else pretty soon. But for me, I have the awareness that I'm affected and I have been trying to counter-act it and the endeavors have more or less been successful. I worry about the kids which are growing on this, and who may not be able to fight this with trivial effort.

General discussion among friends, revealed that many others are also affected by this syndrome, if I may call it. The primary culprit in my opinion is the internet. You would say I'm just passing the buck of blame on something that is not-me..but wait, let me explain why.

With internet, we are getting more and more used to "going through" articles and information. We don't "read" them, generally. And this is for articles, for other web pages we don't even glance, there are nice shiny icons and buttons where are attention is, and we hit them. They are designed so that we just hit them, and don't have to go through reading what to do at that point. Most of the web is designed to be come-and-go type, you are not expected to spend a awful lot of time on the page, and which is design-wise perfect.

But then it has fall-outs. Short attention spans. How many of you can survive reading a 5 page article line-by-line even though it seems ice-creamy interesting? Twitter is a living, thriving and running proof of this phenomenon. It is growing like a parasite on people's inability to read "long" stretches of information (like this :P), and feeding them with short, sometimes incoherent and mostly pointless bytes of data. Twitter seems to be a nemesis of blogging, but its not, its the short attention span. And I wouldn't be surprised if this internet addicted race of ours, in not so distant future would be turned into 10-second-Tom-o-sapiens.


AG provided a link to an interesting article related to this.


Natasha said...

Ummm i suffer from this syndrome too. I check my email 100 times a day, even though i'm not expecting anything urgent. Facebook notifications are another waste of time.

Now i speak only for myself - short attention span is due to a lack of ability concentrate on the task at hand. sometimes you need the short break while working on something to recharge your concentration. But sometimes it's just your brain's way of telling you....i've had enough, i can't work on this one thing for so long.

Good luck figuring this out :)

Parag said...

One more added to the random sampling of affected fellow organisms :)

balpeck said...

It may be that I am grumpy at this hour, not sleeping as I probably should be, but I have trouble either understanding or accepting what you call design-wise prefect - If a page is that, I'd know what I need to know, without reading each bit of it - which I don't believe aids to shorter attention spans - if anything it raises your expectations of how long an article really needs to be :) - Less seems more, which pushes the desire for being concise.

I can imagine it possible to argue that nothing is inherently interesting; it's all relative - but if you fall victim to SASS (You're welcome :P), whilst doing something you usually find interesting, I'd say you perhaps find something else even more interesting.

Parag said...

I completely agree with whatever you've said in the first paragraph.

For the second, I would say its not necessary that one would pay attention for longer periods of time, even though the subject is interesting.

Well...wait. I think I agree to the second one too :P

PS: I'm not sure if SASS made me say that!

Anonymous said...

hm. I second balas opinion too.

the internet although a great medium to get data out there, is still limited by the way it is presented...the authors writing skills, the web designers dev skills and the subject matter also play an important role in making the matter a worthwhile read.

Although I have a kindle, I still think nothing matches the experience of reading on paper, although it comes quite close to it. But I find my concentration levels much higher when im reading stuff on paper or even the kindle than the comp screen.

so i think there's a lot more to it than just ones concentration abilities.

having said that, i think the main downside of the internet is in the way it affects conversations. sometimes it makes sense, but most of the time we just choose to communicate by text rather than in person and thereby are oblivious to body language, eye contact and that sort of implicit, subtle interaction.


Parag said...

Ashbert, though I agree that there is a lot more affecting one's concentration abilities, Internet is generally a prime factor. And its not just the Internet, its the way Internet has evolved into, short-async-bursty.

The other fall-outs of Internet being used as a communication medium that you mention are definitely true.

नावात काय आहे? said...

Interesting topic Parag. I suffer this too.

I have a little different opinion on this. I blame it on the power of expression the Internet has given you.

You want to express and then you want to see what other's think of an expression.

Like Bala said, you find this expressions and replies to that more interesting because they are personal than any other interesting article.

I myself is a reader of books, but I remember the craze of, who scapped me on Orkut or wrote on my Facebook wall and then it went on, and then I come to know I am addicted. :)


Kon ?? said...

Interesting topic ! i suffer from it too, but i don't think that's because of the design of webpages. But probably more to do with that the number of things you are doing at a time increase exponentially with the internet. Everyone has at an average around 6-10 browser tabs open, couple of messengers on that to go with maybe a music player playing in the background. So this gives a plenty of things to take care of so u keep switching the contexts. That's just my opinion :)

Parag said...

Kon ?? < I'm not saying its just because of the design of webpages... I agree that internet as a whole is one of the responsible factors. Or to extrapolate that argument, when people work on computers, generally they multi-task and I guess most of us, including me, are not that good at multi-tasking.

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