Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I find lately I'm considering my dwindling attention span.

It started as a general malaise, but then Salon and The Atlantic made me think about it a little more carefully.

At the moment, I'm blaming Google Reader for my difficulty focusing. Before I started working at FMC, I had no clue what an RSS feed was. Since then, my RSS feed has slowly opened up a new world of information for me.

In the category of too much of a good thing, the quantity of information is staggering and impossible to keep up with, especially since a lot of what's available just needs to be filtered out. I like knowing that if I want to read about the "sexiest" iPhone app that Apple initially rejected, Boing Boing's new time-wasting find: the hospital food photo blog, TV on the Radio's summer tour dates, or Matthew Yglesias highlighting bus stop shelters from around the world, I can. But I digress.

My point is that I wouldn't have bothered reading any of those things, except maybe the bit on Apple, since I'd rather be reading Jess's thoughts on what it's like to graduate from college to possible impending joblessness or WaPo's extensive feature on the President's First 100 Days.

Then again, I could also place blame on my job. I've had stressful, multi-tasking-filled jobs before, but none at a time when distractions seemed so prevalent. A good bunch of the active work of filtering goes on while at work which maybe is only enhancing my fluttering nature. That, combined with actually trying to do work, leaves me feeling scattered rather than enriched by the end of the day.

I'm aware that some of this flitting is my own doing. I consolidated my blogs into an RSS feed for ease of use. I like reading blogs so that I can share them with you, dear reader. I enjoy the random stuff. Who doesn't? And some of it's just my nature to cover broad swathes of territory rather than fully investigate one small section.

But one thing's has become certain: I don't want to give in to the beast with the short attention span.

I'm grateful that I'm at least aware of my brain's habit of flitting from thing to thing. After that, I now need to make the choice to be present to the thing I've decided to do and create an environment for myself that enables focus.

On the musical side, I'm thinking about having a summer of (pick a genre). The idea is that for two or three months I'd listen to nothing but that genre. I'll start in order from history to the present and follow the important players and the evolution of sub-genres. Not sure what genre yet.

On the upside: I made it through both Salon and Atlantic articles on the way the internet is changing our brains and our attention spans. Small victories.

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