Where did our attention spans go?

Nowadays it’s hard to see someone in a waiting room or in line at a store stand still for more than a few seconds. Bored consumers look around impatiently and pull out their cell phones for amusement. Worse still, even on a computer few of us have the attention spans to do just one thing at a time; we’re constantly bouncing between websites, youtube videos and programs. We’re instantly bored in life.

How did this happen? The popular answers gravitate to cell phones and video games but I suggest we look a bit deeper.

I argue that twenty four hour news networks delivered us here.

Sure, it sounds like a stretch, but what are the biggest complaints people have about kids these days? “They don’t go outside and play. They just stay in and play video games”. This begs the question of why? Sure, parents are definitely less involved these days in their children’s development and a good deal of that problem could be why kids are being easily dismissed with a game or movie that requires no parental interaction. With that margin aside though, why aren’t children going outside?

Because their parents are scared.

Twenty four hour news has been telling us about every scary incident outside our front doors. Aids, Murder, Child Molesters and abductors, Terrorism. So frequent are these reports that our society isn’t tempered by how rare these occurrences actually are. We’re constantly told that if we step outside a terrorist aids infected Nazi pit bull is going to mutilate us and our kin and possible rape the body afterwards. We’re scared to go outside and doubly scared to let our children out in spite of the fact that the world is safer than it ever has been statistically.

This breeds a new culture for our children. One where the video game and movie are the norm. One where the internet satisfies our curiosity for the outside world. The problem is we’ve now centered our day to day around devices that can focus on much more at once then we can, and as man kind’s reach exceeds it’s grasp we try to absorb every morsel we can from these magical boxes.

We’ve become so numb to stimulus that  it’s becoming evident even in motion pictures. Where one might find a nuanced plot and character development the trend now has gone primarily to blockbusters, Michael Bay explosion fests that harvest our child hoods rather than developing plots fresh, super hero movies and cheap tawdry thrills (looking at you, Fifty Shades of Gray). In fact, the average movie goer accepts the fact that films like 50 shades of gray are absolutely awful and goes to them anyway. We’ve become too disaffected to care.

The biggest issue is how this affects the worth of personal connections. The internet has provided us with the ability to connect with so many people and with a shield to deflect decency and responsibility through anonymity. Essentially the cycle this causes is careless words leading to the ending of friendships and  that friendship not having any perceived value due to how many connections we have. In other words, when you have 150,000 Facebook friends you start to lose sight of the value of human beings. Friends have somehow become a drag on the market.

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