I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our collective attention. I’m not the only one, as I’ve been seeing a lot of great writing and examples of people sharing a similar concern.
Last week I shared a link that Apple is said to be heading down the path of some sort of augmented reality (AR) device. While there are really great use cases in the education space, the dystopian take is obviously that we’ll all be spending time in some metaverse while the actual physical universe we enhabit disintegrates like a cruton under an elephant’s foot.
To play with words a bit… disintegration is an interesting one. All the “connectedness” that has been introduced to every corner of our world via the internet, WiFi, social media, etc. has actually eroded much of our connection to those in close physical proximity. Here’s an excercise. The next time you’re having a meal at a restaurant, look for a family of 4 or more dining together. Without creeping them out, observe how many of them are engaging with one another vs. engaging with the screen of a device. Follow the same excercise when driving. Look at cars on the highway where there are multiple occupants and take note of how many times all of them are siloed in thought with a screen being their window into the world. It’s even more of a mind fuck when you notice how many times the driver is included in this behavior.
I’m not coming to this conversation as someone who doesn’t fall into the same trap of my attention being held hostage by digital kidnappers that I’ve invited into my life. I am coming to this as someone that has been taking notice and making incremental strides toward change that benefits me as a person, as a husband, as a father, as a pet owner, as a thinker… the list goes on.
I’d caution that relying only on the tools that the device makers are offering is a slippery slope in this effort. Sometimes the simple solution is the best one. Rather than setting up Focus Modes or turning on Do Not Disturb options, try just taking a walk observing the natural surroundings or or sharing an expereience with other humans without any connection other than to one another. Rather than telling yourself you can avoid distraction by reading something longform on your phone, grab that physical book you’ve been meaning to get to and head to a quiet place without any digital leash holding you back.
As my grandfather used to say quite often, “I’m not in the business of giving advice. I only offer suggestions.”