A Modern Paradox
We live in a society where our attention span is shorter than ever, and yet we have more issues and topics demanding our attention than ever. This paradox is one of the more frightening things to me about modern society.
Whether it’s immigration policy, gun control, civil rights, foreign relations, or the latest Supreme Court decision, the American political climate is arguably more diverting and tumultuous than ever before. And when it isn’t politics grasping for our ever-swaying attention, popular culture is never late to swoop in with Kanye’s new beat or the latest Netflix special.
Even as I sit here writing this, the back of my mind is nudging me to stop and read the 28 news articles (yes, I counted) that I have bookmarked on my News app, check Instagram for the 6th time today, scour Spotify Discover to hopefully find a new anthem for this week, and continue binging Parks and Rec. Twenty years ago, this might have sounded a bit like ADD, but in 2018 it’s called being an American human. In fact, according to a 2015 study, the average human attention span has decreased by about 33% since 2000 (although, there isn’t much other solid evidence to support this statistic, so I’d take it with a grain of salt).
So how are we expected to be able to focus on the multifarious issues and topics that matter if we can’t sit still for long enough to reflect on them? The quality that makes humans unique in the Animal Kingdom is our ability to philosophize and problem solve. And the beauty is that this applies to not only the most esteemed scholars, but the most common of men, as well. Thinking is as intuitive for us as eating and sleeping. However… (you knew that was coming), now our lives are so consumed by media and noise that we can’t seem to catch a breath. We can’t even enjoy a nice moment without whipping out our cell phones and posting about it on social media (which is a separate issue).
And this is far from exclusive to Millennials and “Gen Z-ers” (although they are the main culprits); it pervades every generation and applies to all demographics of people.
That being said, passionate and driven people have been making some incredible strides lately, despite all the noise, which proves that deep contemplation and meaningful action are still possible and prevalent.
Realistically, it is inconceivable for us to return to the simplicity that life once had; there are merits and drawbacks to this. Our everyday lives and routines are more complicated, and there is more to focus on, but with that comes prodigious and unforeseen progress in all areas of life. We are well into a new era where perhaps people are forced to adapt and find new ways to reflect and work — while engaging in fifteen other activities at the same time — to contribute to the advancement of the human race, and that’s actually remarkable.