I have a short attention span. I know I do, and I’m fighting it. I think about it a lot. I thought about it as I drove home listening to a very interesting podcast that apparently had a brief lull, making me want to switch to a different podcast. Then I thought, “No, this is interesting. Why do I have such a short attention span?” And I continued thinking about my short attention span and thinking about writing about my short attention span for a few minutes before focusing back on the podcast.
It happens with music too. I’ll flip around the stations trying to find one that’s actually playing music instead of commercials or just talking about inane things. (It’s crazy how often two channels are playing the same song or the same commercial at almost exactly the same time.) But sometimes I find a good song to listen to, and I still have to fight the urge to change the channel. Why? Am I looking for a better song? Did I forget that I just landed on this station to listen to this song that isn’t even four minutes long and I probably didn’t come in at the beginning? Are my fingers just programmed to push those buttons unless my brain tells them not to?
I’m fully aware that I’ve been conditioned by MTV with their constant switching from camera angle to camera angle, and every commercial and action movie that has come since the invention of the music video. I’m not proud of it, but identifying the problem is the first step to recovery. I stopped watching MTV when they stopped playing music. Still that attention grabbing style of filming, writing and even speaking is everywhere now.
A while back I had a conversation with someone about Circa. It’s a news app that gives you the highlights, and, if you’re interested, you can dive a little deeper to get a broader sense of the story, but it’s still highlights. It’s never fully in depth. It’s not like reading a twenty page article in The New Yorker. My friend was more inclined to read The New Yorker, and, though I didn’t admit it (even to myself) I preferred Circa, the CliffsNotes version. I don’t know if I’ve ever finished a full New Yorker article, although I subscribed for two years. It’s not that I don’t like reading. If there’s something I’m interested in (like tiny houses) I’ll read all sorts of things about it. But then I’m reading articles from a lot of different people, not just one really long article from one person’s perspective.
I’m a slow reader. That’s my defense. I can’t waste my time reading something that isn’t absolutely worth my time, because there’s too much out there to read.
I fight it. I fight the urge to constantly change the channel or scroll down to the TL;DR: I want to recondition myself to focus, but not completely reinvent myself.
Lately though, I wonder how much I really want to change this. I don’t want to sit around in televisionless rooms and read Walden for the rest of my life. I don’t want to completely cut technology out because it does make life better. It allows us to do and know so much more than we could have. There’s so much to do and learn about that I don’t have time to dive deep into just one thing. I want to do it all. Except scuba dive in an underwater cave maze. That scares me.