I recently read an article in my alumni magazine that begins this way: “You might be less likely to finish reading this article if you have an iPhone.” Humph. Well. I have an iPhone. It’s pretty new, actually. I was in the Stone Ages for a while with a cute red slide-y one, but now I can’t imagine breastfeeding without a little “Words with Friends” action. So I took this first sentence as a challenge and hunkered down to read every last word of that damn article.
I turned the page.
I turned the next page, to see how much longer the article went on.
Then I started skimming.
Skim, skim, skimeroo.
Right before I gave up entirely.
So the magazine article (which, in case you’re interested, is called “Is Technology Scrambling Our Brains?” by Christine Spicer) won. It wasn’t a boring article—on the contrary, it was full of very useful information about how technology is retraining our brains to make us more distractible. I highly recommend the first few sentences, and the ones that were pulled out and enlarged in big, colorful bubbles.
When did this happen to me? I am a writer. A reader. A student. I have gotten through Beowulf and Moby Dick and more than one John Irving novel. I stayed up into the wee hours of the morn trying not to confuse the Russian characters in The Brothers Karamazov, and I did so with a bit of success, if I do say so myself. And now I can’t get through a six-page article that freakin’ dared me to finish it?
Maybe technology is changing me. Stephen L. Carter, in a fascinating piece (that I read almost all of) called “Text a Little Less, Think a Little More,” maintains that we, as a culture, are losing our ability for independent thought because our brains are never, ever idle. We move from one thing to the next with surprising speed. If we have even a moment that is not chock full of media, we are pissed. (Have you ever forgotten your phone? Like, for one trip to the grocery store? It’s like the apocalypse. WHAT IF SOMEONE NEEDS ME? Gah!!! WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT CEREAL SCOTT WANTS? WHAT IF I’M BEING CHASED BY ZOMBIES?!?!! HOW WILL I INFORM THE JEDIS?)
I can’t give my iPhone all the credit, though. That would be too easy.
I’ve done some scientific research, and here is a chart indicating the precise brain activity I can expect on any given moment:
I also forgot “Desperately trying to get that blasted Wonder Pets theme song out of my head,” which is a slight flaw in my research.
Being a parent of small ones has got to change your brain way way way way way way more than owning an iPhone, right? Way more.
I know you know the feeling—you posted about it here. Whether it’s my iPhone or my children or my lifestyle or simply this point in my life that is causing the shrinking attention span, is there anyone out there who can give me some encouragement? Does it get any easier? Because this can’t bode well for a writer. Maybe when the kids can start doing their own laundry? Or at least when they start watching shows with better theme songs? Like Mad Men?
You probably haven’t finished reading this, anyway. Did anyone finish reading this?