“Cell phones, Blackberries, e-mail, laptops allowing people to bring their work anywhere, news arriving in perfectly condensed and filtered snippets via the Internet and TV, never before has communication been so instantaneous and information distributed so quickly. Never before have people been so connected.”
“One would assume that this preponderance of advanced communication technology would promote a well-informed and close-knit society. While this is true to some extent and there are many benefits to be gained from these technologies, award-winning author and journalist Maggie Jackson surprisingly has found that compared to past generations, we are in fact less capable of quality analytical thinking, more ignorant about many issues, and more fragmented as a community. Never before have we been so disconnected.” Source:Medical News Today
The subject caught my attention, so I guess I still am capable of attention. However, it caught my attention simply because it seems something is always vying for my attention. There’s that nagging feeling, I’m forgetting something; worse still, that I’m forgetting Someone.
I can’t complain because things are rather simple around here. Kids are off being mature adults. Only a husband and dog – neither demanding – have a real claim on my time. I’m not even as plugged in as the rest of society seems to be. I don’t walk around talking into space with a thing in my ear. Why, I’ve even got the computer under control. (Husband might seriously ???) So, I ask myself, “Why self? What’s our problem?”
Enter Maggie Jackson, who wrote, DISTRACTED: THE EROSION OF ATTENTION AND THE COMING DARK AGE (Prometheus Books). Medical News today writes:
Jackson’s definition of “attention” stems from studies in neuroscience that have identified a cognitive system comprised of three networks – awareness, focus, and executive attention (planning and decision making) – that work together to act as the “brain’s conductor, leading the orchestration of our minds.” The awareness and focus networks are systems responsible for gathering information about the environment, and the executive attention network is responsible for making decisions based on that information. Sustained attention is necessary for learning, deep thinking, emotional development, building relationships, and many other essential tasks. Attention is the building block of intimacy, wisdom, and cultural progress. Without it, it would be impossible to function in any meaningful way. In today’s world, this altered perspective has been greatly accelerated. Cell phones, e-mails, and numerous other devices compete for our attention. Because of this constant nagging, it becomes nearly impossible to utilize our capacity for sustained attention, and the implications are felt in business, the home, and society at large.
Jackson notes that the average worker switches tasks every three minutes and once interrupted takes nearly half an hour to go back to the original task. Families and friends find it increasingly difficult to meet face-to-face and even more difficult to do so without interruption or willful multitasking. News segments bombard us with superficially simple pieces of information. We have essentially been ushered into a world of constant distraction in which reflective thinking and undivided attention (single-tasking) has become exceedingly rare.
Jackson further laments: “The erosion of attention is largely equivalent to the erosion of our society.”
Not to worry, forewarned is forearmed. Awareness is half the battle. Bewareness is the other half. The world is a little ditsy in its quest for self-awareness and I think, goes off the deep end into navel-gazing and self-absorption. Inner strength, on the other hand, stems from an inner joy. That’s what I don’t want to lose. The acronym JOY still works for me. When you’re frazzled, check your priorities: Jesus, Others, Yourself.