Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bright Shiny Objects by Betsy Ashton

I was going to call this post, "Bright Shiny Balls," but I thought some people might take offense. Or not, as the case may be.

We live in an Attention Economy, where we are too easily distracted by bright, shiny objects. Try watching commercial television, where a man screams that you must, absolutely must buy this product immediately, but wait, there's more because if you buy right this very instant, you'll get two for the same price, except for shipping and handling. And when the commercial runs again in an hour, you get the same offer.

Our attention spans are shrinking daily. I used to believe that this all started with USA Today, which synthesized news articles to fit on one page. Only the main story in each section jumped to an interior page. Now, we get news snippets on important topics in all the local papers. "World Headlines," "News in Brief," etc. If we want "News in Long," we have to go to a major newspaper or online to read a more comprehensive story.

I'm exhausted with everything that vies for my attention. I don't want to know what's going on in the world every single minute of the day. I don't want to know that someone posted a picture of her dinner on Instagram. I don't care if you took 100 selfies and posted them all on Pinterest. Sometimes, I like being in the dark, quietly writing with all electronic notifications turned off.

For the last two weeks in February, hubs and I were on vacation in Florida, where all the local news was about the tragedy in Parkland. We talked about this and other topics poolside with other guests at the Silver Sands Villas where we stay every year. Deep conversations. Rewarding conversations. Distracting, in a good way, conversations. As we were driving home, hubs commented that one thing he truly enjoyed was talking with and listening to people face to face. I agreed. So often our conversations are bright, shiny objects over Facebook, blogs, or email. God forbid, we have a conversation in Tweets or texts. Still, these bright, shiny objects make up most of our interpersonal communications today.

I vowed to control this Attention Economy by turning off notifications when I write, limiting news viewing to a time of my choosing, and not getting distracted by the myriad voices wanting me to do or buy something.

Oh wait, I have to jump off and buy one of the Slimming Sauna Shorts before the two-for-one special goes away. OMG! I got two pairs! See ya.


Leah St. James said...

So true, Betsy! We're bombarded with demands for attention at every turn, and it's exhausting and stressful. This week I've been experimenting with shutting down my internet while writing, and it's been wonderful.

Jannine Gallant said...

I'm easily numbers. See my post here tomorrow! I should try the turn off the internet technique. I'd certainly get a lot more done!

Betsy Ashton said...

Glad you agree. I've given myself permission to stay off the Internet in all its permutations all afternoon to write. I feel empowered!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Betsy, I read the NYT every day, trying to go deep as I can. But I have to say that I give international stories short shrift. It's so hard to hold in my head everything about each country/crisis. But I try to understand why the Bhutanese are under attack (for example). Little did I know (about my own country), that 1 out of 10 Floridians has a carry permit...from The Daily, a podcast I listen to on the way to coffee. This is a complicated world...deep, complex discussion HAVE to take place in order for us to understand what it means to be human in 2018. The stories I write are a relief, in so many ways.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Now if I could only get FDW to shutdown when I do. I get a play by play of the latest news even when I don't want it.

Margo Hoornstra said...

So much information, indeed. Plus, we need to remember much of the news we get is a skewed version shaded by the reporters perspective. Shutting off the internet, television, et al sure is appealing. I’m like Brenda, though, in my case RLH loves to share, too.

Diane Burton said...

I hate being bombarded by those ad hawkers--esp. the ones who scream at you. I thought when we moved across the state we wouldn't get a certain car dealer (Margo, I bet you know) who yells at viewers to buy his cars. There's only so much news I can take. So much evil in the world. I'd rather have snippets. If I'm interested I can go online to read more. We still get a daily print newspaper. Hubs likes it. Fortunately, unless it's something really relevant, he doesn't share.