Easily distracted

Click. Has anyone seen….You have 24 new message…seen my atten..click. You might want to re-connect with…Has anyone…click. Has anyone seen my…Results 1 to 10…attention…of about 482, 200, 78….span?

It’s important to pay attention. How much, though, and for how long? Ideas about this are changing. The old way of thinking was, you sit down, you learn (whether it’s how to fix a car or how to study a text) and, over time, you absorb the necessary details. This is all changing, however, with the way we are all connected through the internet on our computers, on our mobile phones, our televisions, music systems and, soon, our fridges and washing machines. You have one new message: your socks are clean.

There’s just so much information now out there, on Twitter, on rolling news feeds, on the hundreds of mobile applications fighting for our attention, we’re becoming more and more used to scanning and filtering information by the bucketload. Is this always a good thing, though? I for one know that after a busy week at work, a week of endless emails pouring in, constant flicking between websites and documents and different applications, my ability to concentrate is exhausted. We need to make sure that we’re able to keep up with the flow of the thundering river of information, to avoid becoming stranded, waist deep, unsure how best to proceed.

What about our ability to sit and listen, to concentrate for an extended period of time? We’ve all been in situations where we would expect to have someone’s undivided attention, only to find, five minutes in, that they’re checking their phone.

You’re halfway through a sentence, but that doesn’t matter. Out comes the phone, and “Ah ha ha! Pete says he’s just bought a ticket to Australia for twenty euros. Legend. Sorry, go on.”

No, you go on. I might as well talk to the wall behind you, at least it doesn’t interrupt what I’m saying. “No, I’m listening, honestly. I just need to reply to this.” You don’t need to reply. You’re not wearing a flourescent jacket and Pete’s not screaming at you to help him get his hand out of the shredder. It can wait.

Next stop will surely be “attention rehab” clinics. Please leave your phone at the reception and get ready to embark upon a weekend of re-capturing your concentration skills. Last free places available for our Summer residential course, “Talking without Texting: the Ten- Minute Challenge”.