Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Attention Span of a Gnat

I was listening to NPR yesterday,( I know what you're thinking, since when do I listen to National Public Radio...well obviously since yesterday.) and there was a Yale professor talking about the short attention span generation. She explained that her students are a part of this generation; they could be doing readings for class or writing a paper and they'll check Facebook 6 times within that same hour. So all of you reading this it's time for a self check. The following characteristics are of the short attention span generation according to that Yale professor ( who's name I wish I remembered).

You might be a part of the "Short Attention Span Generation" if:

1. You check Facebook (or any other social networking site) 6 or more times within one hour.

2. You watch TV on demand so you can skip all the commercials

3. OR You prefer to watch TV on your laptop.

4. You would rather watch your TV shows on Netflix where you can watch the whole season or even series at one time instead of waiting for the next episode in a traditional episodic manner.

5. Your a skimmer, i.e. when reading a book or assignment for class or the newspaper, you don't read every single word but instead you skim the page to get the basic meaning.

Sound familiar? Are you a part of the "Short attentions span generation"? I bet a lot of you are. I know I am. But this doesn't mean that you need to run to your doctor and get a prescription for ADD medication. Your symptoms are a result of your upbringing. You have a short attention span because of all the things available to you that let you jump from thing to thing.

It's your smart phone and your laptop that let you check social media all the time. It's Netflix and on demand that let you choose how you watch TV. And from the way you've been raised going back and forth from thing to thing, and growing up watching TV shows that jump from scene to scene your mind has been trained that it needs to have a short attention span to survive in this crazy world.

It's the same way that we are the tech savvy generation because of when we were born and how quickly technology is advancing. It all falls under Generation 'X'.

So why does all this matter? What's wrong with watching an entire series of an 8 season TV show over the course of a couple months? I just did that. Yesterday I finished the last episode of Desperate Housewives. The whole series probably didn't even take me two months to watch. I would watch it on the Netflix app on my iPhone while I was doing anything. It was too boring to put on make-up or brush my teeth or make dinner or do anything without watching a TV show. But what's so wrong with that? I'll tell you, and I'm the first one to admit my mistake.

How do we have any time to think, to develop deep emotional thoughts when we're making our brain pay attention to useless TV all the time? How can we enjoy the wave of emotions of a good cliff hanger at the end of a season of our favorite show when we have access to immediately watch the next episode? We can't. So many movies have lost the thought provoking storyline because the public just wants to see action and sex. The movie industry knows this and they take advantage of it by making a sub par film because they know people will watch it (Taken 2 is a perfect example). How deep can we get into a literary work of art when we are just skimming the surface to get the basic idea? We can't. And if this is the way that this generation is consuming TV, books and movies then what does that mean for the future when this very generation will be making the TV books and movies? Will it be the end of thought provoking, meaningful, artistic media as we know it? I don't have the answer, I don't know.

Now of course this is not the case for everything. Not every person born into this generation is like this. But enough of them are that it is cause for concern. So what's the point? Does this mean I should stop watching Netflix? Well I'll tell you right now, that's not going to happen. But I'll tell you what I will do.

I'm reading Eat, Pray, Love right now and I'm really loving it. (Keep an eye out for the book review that I'll do when I finish it.) I'm on the pray portion of the book and she's in India and she talks all about her struggles with meditation and how she can't get her mind to sit still long enough to actually meditate. I think many of us have these problems when we are trying to fall asleep. So that's what I am going to do. I going to learn how to meditate. I am going to take time everyday to train my mind to just be quiet and think.

I'm teaching a piyo exercise class (it's a mix of Pilates and yoga) and at the end of every class we sit and meditate for just a few minutes. It's so nice a relaxing to let every muscle in your body just relax. It's hard for me to make my mind be quiet but I think that the more I work at meditating the more I will be able to train myself to clear my head.

I'm the person who gets bored just watching TV so I have to surf the Internet at the same time. I'm the person who sometimes can't finish a movie because I get bored with sitting there. My mom says I have the attention span of a gnat. I think this is the way my generation has trained me to be. Who knows, maybe I am afraid to be alone in my own head. Maybe I am afraid of what I will find there. But I don't want to be this way anymore.

I think about what life will be like when my kids are growing up. How it will be even worse. But becoming aware of this 'problem' and realizing that its not a great way to actually live is the first step to figuring out how to remedy this situation.

What do you think? Is there anything wrong with the short attention span generation? Will you do anything to change it?

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