The Daily Evergreen

There’s no app for lost time

KYLE SHULTZ | Evergreen columnist

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It’s hard to focus anymore.

A notification on your screen or a vibration in your pocket is all it takes to distract you from the boredom which haunts your every waking moment. I’m willing to bet you even get those phantom vibrations – you know, when you think you got a call or text, but didn’t. That’s how much your brain craves diversion from the dull and boring.

With its most recent viral video “I Dare You to Watch This Entire Video,” College Humor challenges its viewers to watch a three-minute clip with no distractions and without skipping ahead. If you’re anything like me and have seen the video, you probably were unsettled by how difficult it is to watch from beginning to end. But even more unsettling is the actor’s spot-on analysis of our generation.

If you haven’t watched the video, you should. In those three minutes the actor addresses how technology diminishes our attention spans over time, paying special attention to our need to multi-task. He also reminds us that, as children, we could entertain ourselves without so many gadgets as we have today.

Let’s face it. We all have extremely short attention spans, and this hurts us. Our generation has grown up with cell phones and the internet, and now we’re often impatient and horribly distracted. I’d like to pride myself for being more focused than some of my peers, but I can’t deny my own desire for distraction.

The Associated Press reported that over the past decade the average attention span has plummeted from 12 seconds to a meager eight. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, that’s shorter than the attention span of a goldfish – yeah, a goldfish.

Not enough? In a 2008 study at UCLA, a team of psychologists found that just five hours of surfing on the internet can change the way your brain works.

Here are even more startling statistics recorded by Assisted Living Today: People spend an average of 700 billion minutes on Facebook each month, the average office workers checks emails between 30 and 40 times per hour, and 12 million Twitter users follow at least 61 people.

It all adds up to one big distraction from things that are undoubtedly more important.

Like your education. Lower attention span due to technological distractions hurts us in school and in turn can affect our careers, too. A 2012 poll by CommonSense Media in San Francisco found 71 percent of 685 teachers found technology had a large effect on shortening students’ attention spans.

If you picked up a copy of this newspaper and have made it this far into my column, you’re probably less distracted than the average person. But I doubt you could deny you’re at least a little guilty of using the internet or your phone too much. I am guilty too.

I want to encourage people to read more books, to go outside more, to be unafraid to lie down and do nothing when they need to refresh their minds. When you’re sitting for dinner, ignore your phone. When you’re with family and friends, focus on them. And never deny yourself the chance to distract yourself the old-fashioned way by reading a good book.

Be careful what you waste. The one thing everyone wastes now is time – the most precious resource we have.

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There’s no app for lost time