August 8, 2019

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3. Pay Attention

Why is it that we pay attention. Is attention the currency or the recipient. You owe me ten attentions or you’ll have to pay Attention soon or he’ll send someone round to break your legs.

I digress.

I’m sure there is some etymological reason that explains the above, but it’s not what I wanted to write about - if you do know the answer, please get in touch.

I struggle to focus.

There are times where several minutes, an hour or two on an exceptional day, are uninterrupted. I complete whatever task I’m doing in an efficient and orderly manner. There is a quiet satisfaction here - in living up to your own self-expectations in the accomplishment of a defined goal.

More often - I need to scratch the itch. I need to check something quickly, know something quickly, text someone quickly. Scratch something quickly.

I used to read a lot when I was younger. I once read the entire Carnegie Prize shortlist of 39 books in the space of 6 weeks (I was immensely cool when I was 11). Adolescence I read less, but still a lot, university, not so much, adult life, not so much.

I still enjoy it. But the physical and psychological experience of reading a book has changed. I can get through a chapter, but not without knowing how many pages are in it before I start. I disappear down other rabbit holes, I let the words wash over me, process the meaning, follow the thread, laugh at the obvious jokes. But there is rarely complete immersion or absorption. It is a shower - not a bath.

It’s possible this is a natural byproduct of growing up - adult life is rife with stress and obligation even for perpetually adolescent millennials. There is no time to focus on one thing. We fetishise this - it’s important to be busy, to have loads on, to be slightly insane and preoccupied. This shows you are productive - prove your worth.

We also have too much information to process. New news every day, out of all contexts. Social media incentives mean quick gratification, the dopamine buzz of a little red flag. We stay on apps for hours having a series of 5 second experiences. This may well have an impact on our brains.

Tools can be used to improve human experience. They can also be exploited. A hammer can be used to build a house or bash someone’s head in. The internet can be used as an expanding repository of all human knowledge or a means of keeping people endlessly sated or enraged on entertainment products.

How do you equip yourself for survival in this landscape? I have tried deleting social media several times but I need it - I need to talk to the friends that I don’t see that often. The utility keeps us trapped. I need my hammer to build a bookcase, never mind I occasionally use it to smash myself in the face.

The concepts sound utopian. All the friends you’ve ever made - a click away. The sum of human knowledge - tap some keys. Anyone in the world discussing ideas in succinct and measured tones - just download Twitter.

In reality, it is different - these things are weaponised and distorted until the concepts become naive ideals clung to evangelically by founders for marketing purposes.

These things are important. Time is all we have. Can we keep the good and leave the bad? Can we adapt our usage of these tools, shift to different platforms to maintain and build relationships without the fast-food high of the dopamine buzz?

There will be methods, I’m sure. But broadly, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m bored now - next post.

If you have a comment, send me an email at adam@donthaveablog.com.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash


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