Anyone with some attention to sell, I seem to have lost some of mine.
Did you see those last three Twitter messages that flew by?
Did you really read all the messages posted to your Facebook timeline in the last hour?
Have you managed to get caught up with all those RSS feeds that piled into your feed reader since you logged off last night?
How close are you to screaming email bankruptcy from the highest office building in the city?
Just how many alerts have you missed in the last couple of hours from Google, your never ending beeping Blackberry, from some iPhone app you thought would make things easier?
How many of you have jokingly asked in the last half hour if someone had a few hours they could sell you because you don’t seem to have enough of your own?
Everything is clamoring for your attention and no matter how hard you try at some point you get that blank deer caught in the headlights look as you realize that there is just too much information screaming for your attention and time. As your brain begins to freeze up in a spastic firing of neurons crying out for respite you begin to realize that the majority of all that stuff clamoring for your attention is nothing more than noise.
The problem is that as we are inexorably led to a web where things really do happen in real-time, is that more and more noise is being generated. This is leading us to a point where we are having to forego any real depth to the few and far between bits of real information fight for our attention. Everything is bite size, short posts, 140 character messages, Facebook Lite, even television commercials are spoken faster so more can fit in a smaller time scale.
Documents created today will stand a good chance of being outdated by tomorrow. News that was fresh and important is almost outdated by the time you hit the publish button. Information distribution cycles are getting squeezed unmercifully and as a result the moment we take our eyes off of the screen we begin to feel the cold sweat of the fear we are going to miss something.
Never mind about daydreaming, or having a friendly conversation over coffee without a laptop or smartphone close. God forbid we should eschew undivided one on one attention in favor of zeros and ones sent to us over the Web. Even conversations are becoming some sort of universal shorthand so that we can get our thoughts across as quick as possible and move onto the next bit-size morsel of information that has been put on a diet.
There is no doubt that this is the direction our world is headed in – a world where everything comes at you all at once and where you hope that you can maintain some sort of attention long enough to catch everything so that you don’t miss those few and far between important snack bite sizes pieces of information. Chances are that being the incredibly intelligent race that we are that we will find ways to cope with the constant onslaught of information.
Coping however is not the same as learning and growing. Sure we might actually have people who thrive in this kind of environment but for the majority the assault on our ever decreasing attention spans may be a bigger cost that we might think.