Some recent British study concluded that most of us feel overwhelmed, sad and confused these days but it was not – so much – the evil times in which we live but rather it was the disruption to our way of cogitating. We no longer think in the same manner as our species has for centuries. We now ‘process’ differently and that difference is resulting in a fragmented collective mindset in the larger society.
Put more succinctly, we are having a harder and harder time thinking, concentrating, focusing. No one, it seems, really truly multi-tasks more than two thought processes at a time and even two is uncommon. When we claim we are multi-tasking, we are really focussing on one thing for a short time and then focusing on the next thing for a short time before going back to the first thing to see how it is doing. A chef might look like he/she is multi-tasking but, really, they are tasking only and focussing on one thing while the other dishes simmer on the stove. In other words, we are not multi-tasking so much as quick-shifting-focus. And, while that, in itself will not make a short-order cook or a juggler depressed and confused, it will do that to them if they then spend every other waking moment on their phone accessing FaceBook, Twitter and such.
Our brains are not getting enough downtime.
It seems we are being subjected to too much stimuli and just can’t get away. Some people seem to handle it but the researchers say they are anxious and unhappy. It seems some people know that is a problem in their life and attempt to reduce the stimuli but that seems to just result in a bit more ‘down-time’ gained and how do we tend to use that downtime? By accessing our phone, of course.
The ‘study’ laid it all on a bit thick, to be fair. They then bunched in all the other attention grabbers in society from street and store signage to phones, from TV and radio to living on top of one another. You are a limited human-being utilizing 20% of your brain trying to juggle so many balls all at once (some of the stimuli you are aware of but others are playing in the background like MUZAK, lights, sounds) and the result is a lessening ability to focus. Seems people cannot concentrate on any one thing for long anymore….or, better put, not for as long as those people did fifty years ago.
I recall very distinctly – about ten years ago – when I was lying in bed after waking and I just lay there thinking. Sal said, “Want tea?” I said, “No, thanks. I am just gonna lie here for awhile and think. I cannot believe I have not really had a minute these past 40 years to just stop and think…you know? Think freely. Think whatever my brain suggests. Just free-wheelin’ thinkin’. This is an incredible luxury. I am not used to it. I am just gonna lie here and think. I can hardly believe how I was thinking all the time but never for fun, never freely, always with duties, responsibilities and chores. Finally, I can just think.”
Get this: According to research, our attention span has markedly decreased in just 15 years. In 2000, it was 12 seconds. Now, 15 years later, it’s shrunk significantly to 8.25 seconds. In fact, scientists reckon we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish, who are able to focus on a task or object for 9 seconds.Jan 24, 2022
And another source: “COVID led to many people experiencing cognitive overload, whereby our brains become short-circuited due to being inundated with information our brains are trying to process,” says Crystal Burwell, director of outpatient services for Newport Healthcare Atlanta.Dec 22, 2021.
None of this really news-news but, when I stopped to think (that first time while lying in bed and ‘free-wheelin’) I was stunned at how liberating, freeing and pleasant it was. And do not confuse this kind of free-thinking with sitting in your car in traffic waiting for the light to change. That AIN’T IT. I am talking about something more profound, quieter and contemplative. I am talking laid-back, nothing-pressing thinking. I do not do it quite so much anymore (I guess I rested up enough) but I still do it once every two weeks. I really think it helps keep one sane.
For those of you who struggled with the length of this blog, the 8.5 second attention span website is for you: https://www.wyzowl.com/human-attention-span/