Quality of Attention

Read the entire blog post by Priscilla Long, but I particularly like this part:

Quality of Attention. The internet provides quick information: In three seconds I ascertain the meaning of quiddity—the inherent nature or essence of someone or something. I ascertain that on this day, February 9, 2019 CE, there are snowstorm warnings across the state of Washington. I listen to a beautiful, sad story, “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury, sent to me instantly on email by a friend, read to me by Leonard Nimoy on YouTube. I go to Facebook to check up on my nieces and nephews.

All good. But the digitization of our lives is causing a rapid deterioration of the quality of our attention. This includes the quality of my attention. And although I am quite digitized, I am less digitized than many others. Persons in their twenties, according to a study by Time, Inc., check their cell phone on an average of 150 to 190 times per day. Reading online, we read as many words as we did before. But, according to Maryanne Wolf’s alarming book Reader, Come Home, we are reading by “skimming, skipping, and browsing” in an atmosphere of constant distraction. And, if we compose mainly online, this becomes the way we write—multitasking, skimming, skipping, browsing. Distraction is changing our brains, our very ability to read quietly, to read longer sentences, longer passages, to contemplate. The average memory span of many adults, Wolf reports, has diminished by 50 percent over the past decade.

The solution is not to eschew the digital world—a silly, impossible idea—but to reserve time daily to read quietly a printed book. And writers: A notebook made of paper cannot ding you or email you or provide you with an escape hatch into the morass of distraction and trivia that is the internet.

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