The scientific definition of attention is the cognitive process of concentrating on one aspect while ignoring others. Our brains automatically sensor the tidbits of information that we take in and process it so that we divert our attention to one thing or another. That being said…I definitely DO NOT want this to turn into some boring scientific analysis of attntion and how it impacts our life.
My professor for my English 3241 class, Using Techology and Digital Media in the Classroom, assigned a seemingly very simple project for our homework our first night in class. The assigment was as follows: “Read the first chapter of the book Net Smart: How to Thrive Online and make note of every time you get distracted by the things around you.” Starting out I thought that this assignment would be a breeze. I read really quickly and when I have an assignment I typically have no problem completeing it. That was until I saw the material. It was 30 pages of dense, redundant material talking about many different case studies proving how a typical student can divert their attention to two, three, sometimes four or more things at once. Not so much fun to read huh…
Long story short… I quickly found out that I could read for no more than about five minutes. I also learned that focusing your my attention on something was kinda like breathing – – If I think about it too much, I forget how to do it. So I started to think a bit more about how I focus my attention in everyday life. I tried to catch myself when it happens, but I was reading a book just for fun the other day and couldn’t even finish a chapter because my phone was going off constantly with facebook notifications, text messages, and tweets. Even while typing this post I found that I cannot concentrate on simply typing a blog post between checking email and switching back to autotrader as a search for a new car.
The experiment prompted by Dr. Rish made me keanly aware of my downfalls when it comes to directing my attention. It also made me ask this question…has our generation succumbed to a world where our technology controls our lives? Have we come to a point in our country where every person walks around with an iPhone or iPad in our faces? It also makes me wonder what is happening to the lines of communication because of our lack of attention. I may never know the answer to these questions but I do know that I am more aware of how I am distracted in EVERYTHING I do. I plan to focus my thoughts on finding ways to focus my attention more directly on what I am trying to accomplish.