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26 November 2002 (Tuesday): attention span

So sad: I have my generation's attention span (this is spite of having no TV), so I invariably fall asleep during classical music concerts, and abandon books somewhere around Chapter 4. It's pop songs, short stories and magazine articles for this gal. I'm afflicted with cultural ADD.

I like to think that it's not so much impatience as a need, ironically, for commitment. I don't date casually; when I'm with someone, I'm really with him. On the occasion that I do read a full book, I absorb it in one sitting, at most two or three, staying up the whole night if necessary. It just takes a lot to get me that interested. I have to know what I'm getting into and why I'm getting into it. Otherwise I'd rather hang out at the buffet table and snack.

Tangentially: whatever we don't earn, we take for granted. Those of us who grew up with so-called modern conveniences don't even think of them as conveniences. To us, they're requirements. Who marvels now at running water, supermarkets, automobiles? We weren't there to see how it was before these things were invented and made common, so we have no appreciation for them. Which begs the question: where are we headed, if with every new generation we need more assistance just to survive?

posted by enjelani @ 10:49 AM PST

Replies: 7 comments

hook me up to the mainframe
deliver me from fear
protect me from my demons
from birth to zero year

Look out MacAdamster, there's a new rapper in town!

posted by jim @ 26 11 2002 03:49 PM PST

who need physical assistance? my avatar is cooler than your avatar.

posted by hiro @ 26 11 2002 06:00 PM PST

Life without the internet... that's an age remembered, but not to be comprehended for much longer. I was talking to a professor at Stanford once, who remarked that 'my' generation (X/Y) will probably be the last to have even the fuzziest memories of what life was like before.

No web surfing. No IM. No Amazon, Evite, or E-mail. Way back when, in the bad old days of phones that had cords, TV's without cable, food that needed cooking, mail that was worth waiting for, and the appearance of the first personal computers to crawl out of the sea, equipped with about 16K of memory, tape drives, and joysticks. And those were just about the coolest things ever.

And to think that our grandparents lived rich lives regardless.

posted by m. mellow @ 26 11 2002 08:59 PM PST

I know exactly what you mean about "cultural ADD." My reading habits are remarkably similar to yours. In the last few years, the number of books I've started but not finished outnumber the ones I've read cover-to-cover about five to one. Sometimes this frightens me; I don't remember being this picky as a kid, or even as a teenager. On the other hand, like you, when I *do* find a book I like, I immerse myself in the story completely until I'm finished. Maybe it is a need for "commitment," as you say. Or maybe it's just a result of knowing what I like, and not being willing to waste my time on anything less. I'll settle for being called picky. :-)

posted by Lynn @ 27 11 2002 12:31 AM PST

I'm even worse about books - I just don't bother starting them because when I do I manage to fall asleep reading which depresses me so much that it's not worth the effort anymore. However, I tend to think it's less a matter of ADD and more a matter of being exhausted, since in the summer time I manage to read a LOT of books. I know what my problem gets in the way of reading. Darn that having to make a living stuff anyway!

posted by Karin @ 27 11 2002 04:28 AM PST

Life without the Internet indeed. Does anyone out there remember BIT Net, USEnet, DARPANet, the grand unification, or reading every posting to every newsgroup in existence (I used to do that in short, spare moments between classes)?

So much for history - I think the very interesting thing we are observing Right Now is the fact that for the first time in history, most of us will see not one (printing press, airplane), but many very profound changes in how we live, work, play, and view our existence. I'm sure in a few years we'll be having a conversation - "kids these days have no idea what it was like before you could go to Longs and order a new Kidney clone for yourself". I believe our generation will be having a lot more of those conversations about modern conveniences than any prior generation...

The Internet is interesting because it allows (or will soon) for just about everyone to participate - permitting new forms of higher order structures to evolve - distribution mechanisms, politics, comfortable social settings for people of every possible neurosis, etc. This is all very addictive, and technology can probably scale faster than human intellectual capacity. So the question is - are we all going to end up being a bunch of completely addicted junkies, living for the second in the worlds all this technology will conjure?

How does this relate to attention span? I forgot my point, I got distracted... :-)

posted by Bill @ 27 11 2002 11:04 AM PST

Children in developin' countries, rise up!
Bearin' the pain of American consumerism,
we see our past in your prism
You've got the span
to keep things in your hand
we've got all the toys,
but nothing of real joy
Bending right and wrong
along the path of dissolution.
Rise up and begin the attention revolution!

posted by MacAdamer @ 27 11 2002 11:30 AM PST