Why Can’t We Pay Attention Anymore?

By Lucy Broadbent
on 4 May 2022

It is a fact that our brains can only focus on one thing at a time.  Neurologists have proven this.  And yet, it is another fact, that anyone with a smart phone will try to look at emails, texts, Instagram, Facebook, while also talking to someone, doing homework, eating, or a million other things.  This comes with a cost.

Female, Cooking
Blue Bird at Pexels

“What happens is you juggle very quickly between tasks,” author Johann Hari explains.  “You’re like ‘What did you just ask me? What’s that message on What’s App? What was that on TV about Ukraine?’ What’s that message on Facebook? You juggle between topics, and it turns out that juggling comes with a really big cost.”

Studies show that an office worker typically only has the attention span to focus on one task for three minutes now.  Students, even less.  We have become easily distracted, often stressed, frequently sleep deprived. 

Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay 
Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention

Hari wants to regain our attention.  His new book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – How to Think Deeply Again explains that our lack of focus is not our fault. Forces have been deliberately built into technology to steal our attention.

He does not argue against technology.  Far from it.  But he wants us to learn how to use it without cost to ourselves.

In this podcast, Hari gives an interview offering twelve solutions to the problem we all face.  It’s a fascinating listen – well worth forty minutes of your attention.

Life Examined
Life Examined Podcast

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari, published by Penguin Random House.

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