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August 02, 2016

Just How Micro Are Our Attention Spans Going To Get?

Text by Zaral Shah

When you start second-guessing whether you put the pizza in the oven or the dishwasher, your micro-attention span can turn into a big problem

*Ring ring…riiiiing riiiing….* Halfway through a long week, when I’m working on something that was due yesterday, a phone ringing in the distance — something my ears have normally learned to tune out — catches my attention and throws my brain down a spiral of distractions. What movie do I want to see this weekend? Oh look, the weather forecast on my phone says that the rains have finally arrived! Then I go back to the dress colour I was contemplating, coral or peach? And when I catch sight of birds soaring through the skies, I wonder if they are superheroes with ‘human’ traits!

How fantastic, I cannot even seem to stay distracted by one distraction! A second one comes knocking on my brain mere seconds after the first has wreaked havoc on my concentration. Why is it that paying attention to a single thing is tougher than conquering that Candy Crush level?

I’ve read enough about how we are all very-evolved versions of our ancestors. My attention span, on the other hand, seems to have taken the reverse route to deterioration. It leaps, jumps and waltzes from one subject to another every few seconds. So, an avid reader though I am, I cannot go more than three paragraphs without my thoughts being launched into a parallel universe.

These days, it seems as if attention spans are shortening at greater speeds than those at which skydivers jump into the blue. Is it just social media and the constant pinging of our phones, or are our brains working too fast, in too many different directions, leading to confusion and maybe inefficiency? With scientists inventing electrograms and brain mapping, it comes as a big surprise to me that there isn’t a popular ‘sure-shot attention-keeping’ device out in the market yet.

The new bare necessities of life — phones, iPads and anything else with an interactive screen — have also ensured that, today, my secrets are safe with others, because most people, when I’m talking, seem to zone out as I am uttering my third word….  And I think I’m going to go with burgundy on that dress for sure!

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