“Attention Must Be Paid”

I will write about Lucy from time to time, continuing to chronicle my genealogy story, but I also want to intersperse those posts with others. Today it is to tout the book pictured above Stolen Focus:Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari. (His previous books on addiction incuding Chasing the Scream are also worth reading.)

If you have ever wondered why there has been so much focus on “mindfulness” lately, Hari will help you understand it is in reaction to how scattered many of us are under the constant barrage of information coming at us from many directions. Rather than treat it as a problem faced by the individual, Hari places it in the context of our currrent society.

Basically Hari contends that under the guise of informing us, large corporations have stolen our focus. Previously they had to pay for our attention. Now they gather our thoughts, purchasing habits, preferences, concerns and associations for free as we move from tweet to breaking news. As individuals we continue to think that it is our own problem, that somehow we have lost the ability to focus. But doing that ignores the larger changes that have taken place for many of us. As Hari delineates them he makes suggestions on ways to combat them on both the personal and societal level. On a personal level he suggests such ideas as restricting email checking to once a day. On a social level he has a wide range of ideas from getting kids outdoors to increasing privacy on the internet.

If you have ever wondered who gains from keeping your mind flitting from one source of entertainment to another, wonder no longer. It isn’t us! (On the other hand it has been a boon for the “mindfulness” industry.)

20 thoughts on ““Attention Must Be Paid”

  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I will have to check it out. I certainly see his point. I thought it was just me, from multi-tasking for so many years – as a mother and especially at work. At work, I was always doing a dozen (very different) things at once. I loved the work that I did and I thought I was used to it, but it has taken me two years to de-stress from it.

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  2. Sadly, millions of Americans are too shallow and/or uncaring to think for themselves and are content to be led down the primrose path by power seekers and con artists. IMHO, Integrity is fast becoming extinct in much of our politics and some of our media, and advocating “deep thinking” is only preaching to the proverbial choir. I only wish I were wrong.

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  3. I used to like the news when it was Walter Cronkite. Then, it became like the TV show 60 Minutes. If you want to think deeply and pay attention, turn off the TV. Read those books you have wanted to read for the past 20 years. Play board games and card games with family and friends. It is far more focused, fun, and often riotous. If we turn off the external barrage, we can focus. Super post, Elizabeth. Apologies for rambling.

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  4. I read it some time ago. It is very good, and what I liked about it is the author presents all issues from different angles. The control of the internet over people is scary. Regards

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