Many articles have been created that are talking about the reduction of attention spans. They normally put in some comments about how many readers will reach a point and then normal make some vague statements about the causes. Blame is almost fully put on the individual with perhaps the social media being included. Yet the reason that attention spans have become shredded is not that surprising and should be expected with the current conditions.
Width Instead Of Depth:
Information gathering used to be focused on making sure you understood a lot about a topic before moving onto the next one. Foundational topics would be created, and then more information would be added in a hierarchical manner getting more difficult as time goes on. However, this has been replaced with the idea that the width of the scope is a measure of success. This has distorted research and education skills that focus on how much and not how good. For attention spans the constant moving on from other topics has destroyed this. We are not encouraging ourselves by focusing on one task.
This means that the foundations for a large number of modern individuals are weak. Everything that is built upon that flawed knowledge. The consequences impact everything that requires an answer built on knowledge. Civics and our economy depend on people operating with some degree of attempted rationality. While this may be an assumed assumption, it was not historically something that was taken for granted. Universal voting and the freedom for anyone to run for politics has become what is assumed part of our foundations. However, there were fears that this would lead to disjointed and corrupt policy and bring down the governments. Turning popular opinion and the majority into something workable has been core to most systems of our government.
More Created Confusion:
Problems and finding the truth is difficult. This has always been true although much of the issues around information exchange have been reduced. However with attention being destroyed the ability to work out complicated problems has been destroyed with this. Yet it goes further than this. The confusion impairs the ability to even see if there is a problem or what the problem is. Conversations about this break down as neither side has the attention needed to understand the basic foundation of the conversation, let alone each other.
A breakdown of the ability to communicate with each other is bad enough. Yet attention is also used to understand each other. Without understanding, then reason and compromise also break. Humans are very complicated, and human opinions do not break out of this. Why someone believes something is one element with what exactly they also believe is complicated. While slogans and summaries provide some insight at a glance, it is not even close to the truth. When you cannot spend attention on people, it means you cannot fully respect then. If you are in a rush or doing other stuff then perhaps this can be justified, yet you cannot hope to get agreement if you lack this. Before the reason, people did not pay attention was a choice. Now it is due to them lacking the ability which harder to change.
Breakdown Of Our Ability To Connect:
Attention is something that is crucial to relationships. A good relationship is grounded on the ability to pay attention to others and not just yourself. Without that, a relationship breaks down or is not able to be good. This extends beyond romantic relationships to friendships and family. Sadly a reality for numerous individuals is that they lack the connection with others that attention provides. A fundamental part of humans is receiving healthy attention, although this should not be confused with unhealthy attention seeking. A large amount of research has been done on individuals with those problems or who did not receive them growing up.
The implications are clear with this. Attention is going down, and we know this is a crucial part of humans and human development. The issues with this perhaps can already be seen in our schools and now our society. Social media has well documented impact on those who have problems with attention. It does not help them and appears only to hurt those individuals. With the rates of social alienation and other mental health problems around engaging with individuals the shredding of attention may not be the primary cause but viewed as a concerning part of our modern society on the success and health of the individuals who make up it.
Warping Perception Of Reality:
The above factors combined also distort the reality that we operate in. While we assume that people are operating in a sane manner, they instead are not seeing reality. We then have to wonder if our actions make sense and how much and how many people are impacted by this. In our societies, the question of how much policy and real choices are being made with distorted attention is concerning train of thought. A lot of the systems in the west rely on individuals, not a certain group or a party. This freedom is one of the benefits; however, it relies on those people being in generally good form.
Echo chambers and the power of the internet are also forces that should be appreciated. The environments that we operate in are also changing. Before mostly it would be restricted with the further the news needed to travel the more time for a response also being provided. This has been changed with the speed of information and also the demand for quick answers and taking a position. With our attention decreased, this puts it under siege and also exploits this limitation. This would be an unfortunate development if we had retained our attention ability, yet without it, the results will be devastating.
The destruction of attention has caused a large amount of consequences. We can only expect these to grow. Building it up again is possibility or realizing that we are operating without it. Ignoring this problem has been occurring. Yet its impacts add fuel to other issues. Attention reaches every part of how we function.