Social media has completely drained me of any attention span I once had. This semester I had the brilliant idea of purchasing a new laptop for uni – not a good move on my part. Now I spend valuable time that I could be using to study cursing the university’s wireless internet in a frustrating panic. I need Facebook. I need my e-mail. I need everything else my computer has to offer that will assist me in my compulsive need to procrastinate.
So given all this, it was a little concerning to find out that “indulging in these ceaseless disruptions” is actually very bad for my brain, possibly as bad as excessive sugar or fat could be for our health. Do I need to start a technology diet? Really, there could be business opportunity here. Take a look at Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. They help people lose weight and correct their diet. Maybe I could start a business that helps ween addicted teenagers from Facebook. God knows there a market here. If you sit at the back of a lecture once, you’ll notice hundreds of people on laptops and tablets signing onto Facebook and Twitter in a simultaneous paranoid frenzy causing the university’s wireless to crumble under the weight of hundreds of technology addicts.
One idea that interested me was the notion of an ‘attention economy.’ Kevin McCurley argues that; “Attention is a fundamental currency of advertising. It has value because attention is convertible into sales. In the language of a mathematician, attention is a necessary condition for sales, but not a sufficient condition for sales. Without attention there can be no sales.” So, will future generations be as technologically absorbed as we are? An even scarier thought would be to imagine if they are even more absorbed in their daily distractions than we are (if that’s even possible)!
“A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation released in January 2010 concluded that 8to 18-year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media per
day. But because they dedicate so much of that time using more than one medium at once – say, scanning Facebook as they listen to music and chat with friends – they actually pack in about 10 hours and 45 minutes of content in that period.”(James Temple 2011) After reading this, I wish I could apply myself in the same way to meaningful tasks, not just surfing the web. If I could devote 8 hours a day to anything, I’d be an expert in that field in no time…but unfortunately for me, I’m only an expert in the field of Facebook, like 845 million other people.
Because of this infatuation with have with technology and multi-tasking on the web, Howard Rheingold coined the term ‘infotention’, “to describe the psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today, a mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills with computer-powered information filters.”