Attention Span

My attention span is garbage.

I’ve become so to attached to my smartphone between Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, etc, that I reflexively pull my phone out when there’s been only minute dips in what occupies my focus. I miss the days of being able to just sit with my thoughts. In High School I would burn through novels, absorbing the world through a slower and more focused medium. Television was definitely part of my day, but nowhere near what the internet has become.

Most of what I write comes with a suggestion of what needs to be done to help get through whatever the topic may be and an acknowledgement that I myself have started down that path. This time is a bit different. I know what I need to do, but I can’t bring myself to put down the digital needle.

Part of what makes this dependence so intense is the instant gratification. Whenever I go online I can find something small to entertain myself, if only for a moment. Like so many others, I’ve become enveloped in our bite sized entertainment culture that caters to our brains’ desire for amusement. The trend of “give me what I want now” has seeped into many other aspects of my life. I use the self-checkout registers at grocery stores whenever possible to get through the process quicker. I use Amazon for most of my purchases for their vast selection and ease of ordering. Why do I want to parade around to different stores putting effort into my purchases when I can stare vacantly into my phone and have my things delivered in as soon as an hour without moving from the couch.

I know what you’re thinking, “This guy is complaining about the internet while posting a blog entry online and promoting it via Facebook.” Yes, I get it. Seems slightly hypocritical of me at first, but the internet and all of its contents aren’t bad. I adore the internet and advances in technology that have made this instant gratification possible. What I abhor is how I’ve mis-used it all. It’s not anyone’s fault other than mine when it comes to lacking the self-control needed to put my phone down and do something productive. Our phones and tablets have the ability to be used for education and growth, we just choose cat videos instead. Similar to our choice of french fries over broccoli.

The end result of all of this has been a removal from my life. I don’t enjoy things the way I used to. I don’t live in the moment because I’m rushing to get things done or move onto the next trivially entertaining snippet. Chris Hardwick, host of the Nerdist Podcast, ends every episode with the phrase “Enjoy your burrito” as a way to encourage people to slow down and focus on the present. I hear these words at least once a week, I’m a devout listener and you should be too, but they fail to take hold. I feel stranded in an ocean of content. There is so much to see, to listen to, to watch and I don’t know where to stop. When is enough really enough? Do I need to follow everyone on Twitter to see what goofy picture someone posted? Do I need to use Facebook and Reddit as fillers when I find myself in a quiet moment?

In the song “Worship the Digital Age”, Phil Bozeman of Whitechapel phrases the situation we’ve found ourselves in quite darkly:

I can’t find it in me to resist and look away
This where civilization falls
We have been convinced we need this to be entertained
This disease has consumed us all

Generations now and generations to come
Will submit to a lying scum
Don’t waste your time, we’re already numb
Programmed for the now and the future is none

Sell your soul and worship the digital age

Bozeman has a point. We have built this falsified need that we all seek to fulfill when the reality is that we were fine without Facebook in our pockets. I want to bring my brain back to Earth. I want control of what I focus on. The internet is a fantastic accomplishment of mankind, but I’ve let it dilute my life.

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