Daily #88: Attention span

I’ve realised recently that my attention span is abysmal.

It seems to be a general trend in recent years. With things like smartphones being able to serve the information one wants almost instantly, as well as all companies trying their hardest to bring people their goods, food or services faster than their competitors, it’s only natural that people then begin expecting things to happen more quickly.

I think this is also reflected in the type of entertainment we consume. On-demand streaming services such as Netflix are becoming strong competitors for traditional television, and viewers are getting used to being able to watch episodes at will, skip what they like, and they can now even increase the speed of whatever they’re watching to consume it faster. I absolutely am part of this – we don’t have a TV licence in our house (which is required to watch television in the UK), simply because we never watch it.

With all this fast entertainment being thrown around, it’s no wonder that more long-form types of entertainment such as reading are in decline. For many, reading simply doesn’t give them enough entertainment for the time investment. While you could watch 6 ten-minute videos on a topic in one hour on YouTube (and double that if you watch them on twice the speed), an hour spent reading won’t get you too far into a traditional book. And with the busy lives many of us lead, it’s easy to slip into the ‘better things to do’ mentality.

I don’t intend to preach here, as I’m in that position. I used to read constantly until I was around thirteen – it was my primary form of entertainment, and I could whizz through a novel in a couple of days after school. However, once I got into high school, other things became more important. I got my first iPod touch, so was stuck to that for a couple of years.

Gaming became my new main hobby, which I really enjoy – however I’m finding even that has become a battle against my attention span. Earlier today, I gave the popular farming game Stardew Valley a go. I found that playing on my own gave me no motivation to push forward, and I struggled to get very far at all. I’ve played that game before, with friends, and I didn’t have the same problem then. I feel like I require some sort of stimulation from others, or an element of competition, to be able to progress – and I believe that that’s also linked to my attention span.

However, as I mentioned before, it’s partly a symptom of having a fairly busy lifestyle. I work full time, so I’m out of the house for most of the week, then everything else needs to be done on the weekends. That means that when everything is done, and I have a few hours to myself, I want to cram as much ‘entertainment’ into those hours as I possibly can. Therefore, reading a book almost seems like a waste.

I’m working on it. I intend to take a few books when I go away in a week’s time, which I should hopefully be able to blast through. It’d be interesting to know other people’s methods for improving their attention span.

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